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Eurypterida is more than 300 species of sea scorpions known. These have been classified in more than 60 genera and about 20 families.
Most major groups can be recognized by the structure of the legs and chelicerae, but many genera and species may only be recognized by structures on the ventral (belly) side of the animal. For fossils in which only the dorsal (back) side is visible, this means we cannot always identify them to species. The fossil at right is a remarkable exception; two fossils of Eurypterus were fossilized side-by-side showing both the dorsal and ventral aspect.
Eurypterids consist of a carapace with six appendages (which altogether are termed the prosoma) and a body (opisthosoma) consisting of twelve segments. The dorsal side of the carapace has two lateral eyes, which were compound in structure, and two light-sensitive ocelli on the centre of their carapace.
The opisthosoma is divided into either the preabdomen (segments 1-7) and postabdomen (segments 8-12) based on contraction of the segments or the mesosoma (segments 1-6) and the ancylosed segments of the metasoma (segments 7-12). At the posterior of the animal is the telson, or tail-spine, which in some eurypterids is modified into a broad rudder.
Eurypterids fossils are known from all continents, and have such amazingly good preservation that their external structure is the best known of all extinct animals. Because of their long tails and the spine-like appendage at the tip, the eurypterids have been called sea-scorpions. And in fact they are closely related to scorpions and other arachnids.
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