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Randall Miller and Giant Sea Scorpions

Sea scorpions are more properly called eurypterids, their common name coming from their resemblance to modern land scorpions. Eurypterid fossils are known from rocks as old as the Ordovician Period and as young as the Permian Period. During the Devonian Period some species reached enormous size for an arthropod. Giant sea scorpions from the group called pterygotids may have reached more than two and a half metres in length.  In northern New Brunswick a species of the genus Pterygotus was first found in the rock in the late 1800s. Little work was done to identify the fossils until Randall Miller and Jeff McGovern from the New Brunswick Museum found a few relatively complete specimens in the 1990s. Miller identified the eurypterids from northern New Brunswick as Pterygotus anglicus, the same species first identified in Scotland by Louis Agassiz in 1844. During the Devonian, North America and Europe were connected as one landmass. Eurypterid fossils found in New Brunswick and Scotland were likely living in the same connected ecosystem.

Pterygotus anglicus, with its grasping claws and swimming ability, may have been an active predator. Fossils found in New Brunswick were just metres away from specimens of Doliodus problematicus a shark armed with a mouthful of teeth. Research is still underway to determine which animal might have been the hunter and which the prey.


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