A Giant millipede fossil, the biggest ever discovered so far, has been unearthed on a beach in northern England. The species, which could grow to be almost three meters in length, is thought to have developed approximately 326 million years ago, which is nearly one hundred million years before the first dinosaurs appeared on the scene.
It is one of the biggest arthropods that has ever lived. The remnants of this species, known as Arthropleura, were found in January 2018 in a block of sandstone near a cliff on the shore in Howick Bay, Northumberland, and were identified as being from the Mesozoic period (England).
The giant fossil is made up of a number of articulated exoskeleton segments that are generally comparable in form to those seen in contemporary centipedes. It is just the third fossil of this sort to be discovered, and it is also the oldest and biggest of its kind ever discovered.
“It was an incredibly exciting discovery, but the fossil is so big that it took four of us to wear it,” says the paleontologist.
According to experts, the fossil represents just a portion of the exoskeleton. The body of the creature would have been buried along the riverbed, where it would have been preserved by the sand that had collected around it.
The piece measures around 75 centimeters in length, prompting experts to conclude that the creature’s complete body was approximately 2.7 meters in length and weighed 50 kilograms.
In this study, which was published in the Journal of the Geological Society, the researchers discovered fresh information on the animal’s natural environment. Previous reconstructions have shown that these massive centipedes originated in coal marshes, which was confirmed by recent research. While the team’s research of this specimen indicates that Arthropleura favored open woodland environments along the shore, the team believes that this is was not always the case.
Around 326 million years ago, Britain was positioned close to the equator, making it a prime location for dinosaurs. In addition, the climate in Northumberland was more tropical.
The great size of Arthropleura has been related to the peak in atmospheric oxygen concentrations seen near the end of the Carboniferous and Permian periods, which is another crucial point. This new fossil, on the other hand, originates from strata that were deposited before this peak.
As a result, it is clear that oxygen is not the sole reason. These centipedes may have grown to such an enormous size, according to the researchers, because they were fed a diet that was very rich in nutrients.
A species that existed long before the time of the dinosaurs.
The Carboniferous age, which began 100 million years before the birth of dinosaurs, is the time period in which the fossil discovered lived. A tropical climate prevailed in the “north of England” during the time of the English Civil War.
It was discovered in the sandstone block that fossilized plants from the Carboniferous era were present, indicating that the gigantic centipede lived in a drier and more open habitat than previously imagined. Because their prior remains were discovered in coal mines that were once lush, humid woods, the conventional belief was that arthropleuras lived in marshy habitats. However, recent evidence suggests that they did not.
Arthropleura creatures crawled across the equatorial part of the Earth for around 45 million years until becoming extinct during the Permian era of geologic time. The reasons for their disappearances are still a mystery to this day.