Eldredge, Niles American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York.
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A class of phylum Arthropoda, subphylum Chelicerata. Merostomes are aquatic chelicerates, characterized by abdominal appendages bearing respiratory organs. Most merostomes are extinct; only the horseshoe crabs, comprising four species and three genera (Carcinoscorpio and Tachypleus of eastern Asia and Limulus polyphemus of eastern North America), survive. The body of a merostome consists of a prosoma, or head, which lacks antennae, has a pair of compound eyes and a pair of simple median eyes, and bears the chelicerae (pincers) and five pairs of uniramous walking legs with gnathobases for mastication. The opisthosoma, or trunk, consists of 12 or fewer segments which may be freely articulating or partly or entirely fused into a solid shield; the opisthosoma bears the respiratory appendages. The telson (tail) is a solid, usually spikelike, structure. See also: Chelicerata
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