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eurypterid

any member of the extinct subclass Eurypterida of the arthropod group Merostomata, a lineage of large, scorpion-like, aquatic invertebrates that flourished during the Silurian Period (444 to 416 million years ago). Well over 200 species have been identified and divided into 18 families. They include the largest arthropod species known, Jaekelopterus rhenaniae (also called Pterygotus rhenanius or P. buffaloenis), which measures nearly 2.5 metres (8 feet) in length. Several other eurypterid forms were almost as large. The fossils of giant water scorpions are usually found in brackish and freshwater deposits, but the animals probably first lived in shallow coastal areas and estuaries and moved into freshwater environments later. Only a few species appear to have been good swimmers. They are presumed to have been fearsome predators, with large grasping pincers that may have entrapped early vertebrates and various shelled animals. Their distant relative, the horseshoe crab of the order Xiphosura, has survived to the present day.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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