Sunbakers watch out

The trouble with bullies is that they often find ways to track you down. So, not long after the little arthropods escaped from the sea, the big bullies soon found a way to follow their breakfast onto dry land.

Fossilised tracks show that some pretty impressive beasts were tramping along sandy river banks, about 450 million years ago. Some tracks were made by centipede-like animals, as long as a big dog. The most frightening were the eurypterids - animals that were not only mean by nature, but probably often hungry and so very cranky.

If you were ever able to hop on a passing time machine and travel back all these hundreds of millions of years, the one thing you really wouldn't want to do is sunbake for too long. This is in case you're joined by a eurypterid, otherwise known as a 'giant sea scorpion'. That last word is enough to scare the pants off some people. Put 'giant' in front and we are in a whole new state of terror. These beasts grew to 2 metres long. That's right, a scorpion-like animal about as long as Ian Thorpe.

We're fairly sure that these huge creatures were ferocious killers. Some were armed with a pair of fearsome, crab-like pincers which they could use to grab their prey. Others had huge, needle-like claws that locked together to form a cage in which their next meal

could be trapped. They probably killed it by stinging it with the tip of their tail, in the same way that scorpions do today.

The only good thing is that for these big brutes, moving around out of water was probably not very easy. They were used to being supported by the sea all around them. You probably know what it's like. You can lie in the sea and float, but if you try lying in air you will quickly come down to Earth with a bump. It's called gravity. They probably moved very slowly on land, and so they would have found it hard to run as fast as their breakfast.

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