Sea Scorpions: First Tool Users EVER! (Sort Of)


In news underwhelming for some but practically brain-orgasmic for others, (okay, probably just me) geologists in the US have come up with a possible explanation for the peculiar trace fossils found in some Cambrian intertidal sandstones of North America. These 500 million-year-old trackways give the impression of a multi-legged organism that once hauled behind it some kind of weight attached to the left side of its tail area. A lop-sided, sloppy hermit crab would’ve been the perfect candidate, had researchers not already established that they didn’t actually exist until 300 million years after these fossils were formed.

So instead, it has been suggested that these drag-marks were left by weeny sea scorpions, who were one of the first ocean-dwellers to venture onto the land, quite possibly with the use of small coiled sea shells. By covering the gills located on their tails with an empty shell, the oxygen trapped inside would be sufficient to allow the sea scorpions to sustain very brief trips across the sand, the internal humidity also helping to ensure that the gills didn’t dry out in the open air. Dubbed “aerolungs” these clever mechanisms turned the sea scorpions into tiny reverse scuba-divers, or astronauts, but without the astro.

Now while this theory gives me a serious case of the “awwwws,” (so much so that I had to take regular time-outs whilst reading about it so I could compose myself) it also gives me an equally serious case of the sads when I consider exactly why the sea scorpion made such an effort to leave the comfort of its gill-friendly seabed. If only I could go back in time and tell it that even though a sea dweller has successfully emancipated herself from the watery depths to find love and good fortune on the shore, that was one time, and a coquettish redhead no less, not some paleozoic snapfest. (No offence, sea scorpion, but seriously.)

Anyway, as it turns out, I can go back in time, and did, only to have the song I composed about the wonders of being Under the Sea unceremoniously cut short, the sea scorpion breaking my fishbone baton in two across its keratinous carapace and laughing me out from behind my barnacle-encrusted lectern mid-song, my ragtag prehistoric orchestra hurling their instruments at me as they scuttled back into the sea caves from whence they came. So fine, sea scorpion, pursue your inter-habitational romance, see if I care. But just know that he’s only going to sleep with you and then write down all your credit card details while you’re in the fucking shower so he can purchase a shitload of porn subscriptions without his wife (oh, you didn’t know?) finding out, because you just know she checks his bank statements like all the time because that poor bitch has been burnt before. You might be dexterously enterprising, sea scorpion, but get a fucking clue.

Original research paper here.

– bec


Filed under Fossils, Science, Sea Creatures

3 responses to “Sea Scorpions: First Tool Users EVER! (Sort Of)

  1. O




    This is the greatest paleo-news site of all time. I don’t care if you don’t consider this a paleo-news site. I don’t consider myself a lumberjack, but musclebound men treat me with respect and trees fall down when I frown at them, so you take what you can get.

    • Ohh thanks so much, Matt!! Yeah… we’ve been meaning to change the “About” section for a while now, seeing as our initial plan to make a “site about Sydney” didn’t exactly pan out (because Sydney sucks). Sara is doing a brilliant job keeping it in check though.

      And a much as I do enjoy the idea of toppling trees with ones steely glare, I can’t help but think of the tiny woodland creatures who would be left homeless as a result. Maybe you could work on making trees stand back up again when you smile at them. The lumberjacks would still be impressed, in fact probably even more so, and the tiny woodland creatures won’t try to gnaw your face off in your sleep.

  2. stef

    you constantly amaze me.

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