What big eyes you have: The ecological role of giant pterygotid eurypterids

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Abstract

Eurypterids are a group of extinct chelicerates that ranged forover 200 Myr from theOrdovician to thePermian. Gigantismis common in the group; about 50%of families include taxa over 0.8 m in length. Among these were the pterygotids (Pterygotidae), which reached lengths of over 2 m and were the largest arthropods that ever lived. They have been interpreted as highly mobile visual predators on the basis of their large size, enlarged, robust chelicerae and forward-facing compound eyes. Here,we test this interpretation by reconstructing the visual capabilityofAcutiramus cummingsi (Pterygotidae) and comparing itwith that of the smaller Eurypterus sp. (Eurypteridae), which lacked enlarged chelicerae, and other arthropods of similar geologic age. In A. cummingsi, there is no area of lenses differentiated to provide increased visual acuity, and the interommatidial angles (IOA) do not fall within the range of high-level modern arthropod predators. Our results show that the visual acuity of A. cummingsi is poor compared with that of co-occurring Eurypterus sp. The ecological role of pterygotids may have been as predators on thin-shelled and soft-bodied prey, perhaps in low-light conditions or at night. © 2014 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.

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Anderson, R. P., McCoy, V. E., McNamara, M. E., & Briggs, D. E. G. (2014). What big eyes you have: The ecological role of giant pterygotid eurypterids. Biology Letters, 10(7). https://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2014.0412

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