Eurypterids are a group of extinct chelicerates that ranged for over 200 Myr from the Ordovician to the Permian. Gigantism is 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 capability of Acutiramus cummingsi (Pterygotidae) and comparing it with 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.
- Received May 23, 2014.
- Accepted June 13, 2014.
- © 2014 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.