I’ve always loved November. Not as much as I love December, but definitely more than I love January. It has always been a month of family gatherings, big surf and epic sunrises and sunsets. This past Sunday was cloudy along the coast but as the sun neared the horizon the sky opened up and voila, it was red sky city. When I got down to the beach the whole sky was glowing (shot #1) and I knew I’d be in for a tangerine treat. There was a pond of water (shot #3) that had been created by the big swell that had banana shake written all over it. And it was also a very negative low tide which revealed thousands of anemones and sea stars draped along the coastline. We’ll have more on that next week. All in all, the best sunset of the fall and a great way to end the Thanksgiving weekend.
Nature week continues here at Sunrise Santa Cruz as British scientists have stumbled across a fossilized claw, part of an ancient sea scorpion, that is of such large proportion that it would make the entire creature the biggest bug ever. And you always thought that honor went to your parents. We’re talking 8 feet long in sneakers. The fossil was a Jaekelopterus rhenaniae, a kind of scorpion that lived only in Germany for about 10 million years, about 400 million years ago. You know, before MTV.
According to Simon Braddy, a University of Bristol paleontologist, the discovery in 390 million-year-old rocks in a quarry in Germany suggests that spiders, insects, crabs and shrimp cocktails were far larger in the past than previously thought. “This is an amazing discovery. We have known for some time that the fossil record yields monster millipedes, super-sized scorpions, colossal cockroaches and jumbo dragonflies. We never realized until now just how big some of these ancient creepy-crawler were.” And don’t forget the enormous earthworms, gigantic gnats and titanic termites.
The research found a type of sea scorpion that was almost half a yard longer than the previous estimates and the largest one ever to have evolved. What this means is before this sea scorpion became extinct it was much longer than today’s average man is tall. Unless, of course, we are talking Manute Bol, Yao Ming or the salesmen at the Big and Tall Men’s Stores.
Professor Jeorg Schnieder, a paleontologist at the Freiberg Mining Academy in Germany, says that these scorpions “were dominant for millions of years because they didn’t have any natural enemies. Eventually they were wiped out by large fish with jaws and teeth.” I’ve always felt it’s the unnatural enemies that are the most dangerous. Those killer guppies will get you every time.
Ancient sea scorpions are believed to be the extinct aquatic ancestors of today’s scorpions and possibly all arachnids, a class of joint-legged, invertebrate animals, including spiders, scorpions, ticks, mites and might nots. Scientists believe these gigantic sea scorpions evolved due to higher levels of oxygen in the atmosphere in the past or evolved in an “arms race” alongside their likely prey, fish that had armor on their outer bodies. Somehow the Russians are always involved.
Best of all, these creatures were also cannibals that fought and ate one another, so it helped to be as big as they could be. Once again, size matters. According to Braddy, “Hundreds of millions of years ago, these sea scorpions had the upper hand over vertebrates-backboned animals like ourselves.” Wouldn’t you just hate if you were watching TV and an 8 foot scorpion snatched away the remote? So the next time you swat a fly, or squish a spider, think about these insects that lived long ago. Because back then, I would have taken a fly swatter the size of a Buick to squash one of these babies.
That’s our show for today. As you can see, I like to report on the important news topics of the day, like the threat of global warming, the nationwide mortgage crisis and ticks the size of Orson Welles. This is the kind of sunset that really gets me going and makes me proud to be a Santa Cruz westsider and an inactive member of the striking Writers Guild of America. So enjoy the day, enjoy the sky and most of all, enjoy the fabulous color.