A Giant ‘Sea Scorpion’ May Have Attacked This Trilobite 450 Million Years Ago


A mangled trilobite, discovered fossilized in Czechia, appears to be like prefer it narrowly escaped changing into lunch greater than 450 million years in the past.

All that is left of this historic marine arthropod is the top, however researchers suppose the pincers of one thing like a large sea scorpion may have been what amputated its eye, scratching the shell and scarring the face.


Few trilobites have been discovered who’ve suffered a head wound and survived past it, however in some way this specific specimen (Dalmanitina socialis) lived to molt one other day. It even regrew a completely purposeful eye to make up for the one it had misplaced.

“The restored eye, though shifted posteriorly and in another way oriented, with a quite irregular distribution of lenses, was nonetheless a purposeful organ,” the Czech researchers describing the discover conclude in a brand new paper.

In the course of the Paleozoic Period, earlier than the mass extinction that ended most life on Earth, massive arthropods that resembled scorpions, referred to as eurypterids, have been fearsome predators of the ocean flooring.

Colloquially generally known as ‘sea scorpions’, they got here in lots of sizes, from that of a human hand to a whole human; for these spectacular creatures, trilobites have been a straightforward and plentiful supply of meals.

file 20200701 54152 1cab3hlEurypterus remipes (H. Zell/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0)

It is unclear precisely what attacked the mangled trilobite, however researchers say the scratches on its shell appear to be they have been as soon as drawn by pincers or claws, pointing to a possible encounter with a sea scorpion.

Remarkably, the trilobite clearly lived lengthy sufficient to heal its wounds and regenerate a brand new eye, which makes the fossil of particular curiosity.

Screen Shot 2021 07 20 at 2.48.07 pmInner mildew of the top of trilobite. (Fatka et al., Worldwide Journal of Paleopathology, 2021)

Trilobite fossils with injured eyes are extremely uncommon – most likely as a result of the proof is often eaten by predators. Solely a handful of circumstances have been reported thus far within the literature, the crew writes.

In 2017, for instance, a trilobite fossil present in Norway confirmed dent-like accidents to the top and a punctured eye that appeared as if they got here from the pointed horn-beak of a cephalopod, roughly 465 million years in the past.


In the present day, it is recognized that trendy cephalopods, like octopuses, drill into the eyes of crabs when attacking their prey. However the broken eye of the trilobite not too long ago analyzed in Czechia doesn’t present any proof of getting been punctured.

One thing else may subsequently have attacked it, and analysis in the identical area has uncovered trilobite fossils alongside massive sea scorpions, with pincers very able to scratching shells and amputating eyes.

As such, researchers suppose a ‘massive arthropod’ comparable to a sea scorpion is the almost certainly wrongdoer of the trilobite assault. The predator may presumably have even been a pterygotioid – members of this superfamily of eurypterids may develop over two meters (6.5 ft) in size.

Trilobite fossils include a few of the oldest proof of eyes on the planet, and discovering one which has regenerated is kind of the rarity. This one has been sitting in a set on the Czech Geological Survey since 1846, but it surely’s taken us till now to look actually intently.

Sea scorpions may need been sneaky, however trilobites have been clearly robust.

The research was revealed within the Worldwide Journal of Paleopathology.



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