A gigantic ancient millipede has stolen the biggest millipede ever discovered. The fossil, which was discovered on a beach in Northern England, also holds another record: it is the world’s biggest arthropod. The behemoth is expected to reach 2.7 meters (almost 9 feet) in length and weigh 50 kilograms, knocking the sea scorpion off the top rank (110 pounds). That is about the same size as a vehicle. Imagine it scuttling around, and thank your lucky stars you were not around 326 million years ago to see it.
The discovery was made public in the Journal of the Geological Society. The enormous millipede, which belongs to the Arthropleura genus, was discovered in the Carboniferous Period, almost 100 million years before the dinosaurs, and is only the third of its kind to discover. This ancient beast, like modern millipedes, has numerous exoskeleton segments, one of which was discovered in Northumberland in 2018. The section, which is 75 centimeters (30 inches), is considered to make up nearly a third of the millipede’s total length. It was supposedly discovered by “total chance,” when the sandstone block holding the fossil tumbled from a cliff to the beach below.
Dr. Neil Davies, the paper’s principal author, stated in a statement, “The way the boulder had fallen, it had cracked open and wonderfully revealed the fossil, which one of our former students chance to see while strolling by.” The portion was discovered in a fossilized river channel, and the researchers believe it was filled with sand, preserving it for hundreds of millions of years.
“Finding these huge millipede fossils is uncommon,” Davies added, owing to the fact that their bodies tend to disintegrate after death. As a result, he believes the fossil is a piece of the millipede’s exoskeleton that was lost as the millipede grew. Even more unusual is that the fossil was discovered in sandstone, which “is generally not fantastic for retaining fossils,” according to Davies.
“On the one hand, the fact that something has been kept is astonishing. However, it just implies that there may be a lot more and comparable items in regions where researchers haven’t looked for fossils previously.” The humble millipede has had a record-breaking few days when a new species with 1,306 legs was discovered last week, making it the leggiest invertebrate of all time.
This record finds will provide further information on the millipede’s mysteries, such as its habitat. While Arthropleura is known to have existed near the Equator during the Carboniferous, it was supposed to live in coal swamps. This specimen, on the other hand, indicates that they preferred open forests along the coast.
We can also uncover some of its size secrets. It does not appear to be due to an increase in atmospheric oxygen levels, as previously suggested. Because the fossil discovered in rock predates the surge. “Oxygen doesn’t really take off until these things have developed, and it doesn’t really peak until they appear to become extinct,” Davies told NPR. “They’re not quite right.” So, why are they so large? It appears to be a high-nutrient diet. According to Davies, foliage, nuts, seeds, and maybe even other species might all contribute to their enormous size.