The New York State fossil is the Eurypterus. But the beast may not be extinct.
Occasionally, in the winter months, I go to the beach and wade out into the freezing cold water to just above the knees. It is very refreshing. I have been doing this for a number of years. However, this practice was halted when, in early December, I was bitten by an unidentified predator, just above my calf. After several days, the area of the bite remained inflamed and thus I made a trip to my trusted Hamptons physician. Despite his 30 years of medical experience, he was unable to identify the source of the bite or suggest a treatment. This, despite the perfect outline of the teeth of whatever it was that bit me.
Two weeks passed and there was no improvement and I was also running a fever. I showed everyone I came in contact with the bite marks and asked if they had ever seen or heard of anything similar. The effort was futile. However, my neighbor did offer the suggestion that I contact the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. They were of little direct help but they did direct me to an internet site that identified various inhabitants of the sea. What followed was astounding.
I learned that long ago, in a place we now call The Hamptons, there lived a water dwelling creature that had four eyes, two claw-like pincers and a shell that looked like armor. It could grow as big as four feet long and not only lived in the water but could walk and survive on land for a period of time. It was called the Sea Scorpion or Eurypterus. It was one of the most feared undersea predators before the evolution of sharks and giant marine reptiles. In fact, it is now the official New York State Fossil.
I was also made aware that they were many in numbers during their peak, which was a little over 400 million years ago. This was a time that is called the Silurian period, and much of North America, including the Hamptons, was submerged under water.
I returned to my physician with a picture of the Eurypterus and he confirmed that the bite mark very much resembled the shape of the mouth of the pictured suspect. That was the confirmation I had been looking for. Mr. Sneiv was indeed bitten by what was previously thought to be extinct—the dreaded Eurypterus.
Sound far-fetched? More than 70% of the earth is covered with water. Each year we discover new marine species. Each year we also find that ones we thought were extinct are actually not. Can we really say with 100% certainty that the Eurypterus is extinct? Alligators and crocodiles have been around for hundreds of millions of years, so it is possible that this sea scorpion, in limited numbers, is still around as well?
I suggest, as a precaution, that we close all the East End beaches until we have an opportunity to commission a comprehensive government study to see if the Eurypterus still exists. It might be expensive and take a few years for the results, but you can’t put a price on public safety.
Note: Mr. Sneiv will be scheduling public showings of the bite marks at various locations on the East End over the next few weeks.