There are many people who are afraid of millipedes because of their shape, but most millipedes are small in size, with the largest living species currently being the giant African millipede, the size of an adult. can be up to 30 cm.
If you think a 30cm long millipede is scary, you’re in luck because you’re living in modern times, not in the past, when millipedes could be as big as a crocodile.
A team of paleontologists has published a huge fossil, found on a beach in England in 2018. Fossils suggest it was nearly 3m long and may have been a carnivore.
Sometime between April 2017 and January 2018, a large block of sandstone broke off a cliff in Northumbria, England, and landed about 6 meters below on the beach. A paleontologist who happened to be walking along the beach found the rock and realized that it contained the fossil of a giant millipede. The team from the University of Cambridge then analyzed the fossil; Their results were published recently in the Journal of the Geological Society.
Neil Davies, a paleontologist at the University of Cambridge and lead author of the study, said: “It was a completely unexpected discovery. The rock fell and cracked perfectly to reveal a fossil that one of our PhDs stumbled across while walking by.”
This creature is part of the genus Arthropleura and lived about 326 million years ago, or 100 million years before dinosaurs appeared. The fossil does not have a head, but the animal is estimated to have a width of 55cm, a length of 2.63 m and may have weighed 50kg when alive. This size makes it the largest invertebrate to date, surpassing giant sea scorpions by at least 10 cm, which has previously held the title.
Dr. Davies said: “It was definitely the largest beetle that ever appeared on the ground.“It was so big that it took four people to transport it.
It may not even be its largest size, as the researchers think it’s not the millipede’s body, but just the shell it sheds, meaning it can continue to grow. even bigger.
Based on the location of the fossil and the rock mass, the researchers suggest that the fossil was in a river, where it was filled with sand deposits for conservation purposes. One of the reasons that ancient animals were able to grow to such a large size is because of the abundance of oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere, but Arthropleura existed before the amount of oxygen on Earth peaked, so there is It is possible that several other factors influence its size, such as its diet.
These animals, Davies says, could be predators that get nutrients from other invertebrates or even amphibians, or even from their own kind.
The extinction of this giant millipede may be related to climate change in ancient times. Davies says: “These creatures lived near the equator, which became hot and dry during the Permian. This may have altered the vegetation and food may have become more scarce. At the same time, the first reptiles are starting to dominate terrestrial habitats, so they will have to face more competition while resources shrink.”
The researchers estimate the millipedes have between 32 and 64 legs, far less than the most recently discovered millipede, Eumilipes persephone, a millipede with no eyes and a body. thread-like shape, almost 100 times its width. The individual with the most legs on record was 1,306. Unlike Arthropleura, Eumilipes persephone is still alive, but you can hardly find it because it is deep underground, in an area of Western Australia called Goldfields, where minerals are mined.