Researchers in the U.K. have found the fossilized exoskeleton of the largest arthropod to have ever lived.
The monstrous millipede ancestors, known as Arthropleura, were already known to scientists,
“It seems to have filled with sand soon after it was molted,” Davies said. “It is in a fossilized river channel, so it likely fell into a small river and got entombed in other sediment very quickly.
– Monster millipedes –The researchers were able to estimate the size of this new individual based on previous findings of fossils and trackways.
“Smaller Arthopleura examples have a common width:length ratio of 4.78,” Davies said. “So, as our animal was definitely 55 cm wide, that makes it 2.63 m long.”
But they suspect that these beasties were most likely vegetarians and would have likely feasted on trees, plants and nuts. However, they may have also eaten other small invertebrates too.
Trackways left by this individual suggest that it had at least 20 legs, he added.
Earth’s equa tor can move around due to a phenomenon known as true polar wander, which occurs when the outer layer of a planet or moon moves around its core, tilting the crust relative to the object’s axis.
The tropical climate in what is now the U.K. during the Carboniferous period, as well as a lack of predators and other large animals, are likely what allowed these invertebrates to grow to such extraordinary sizes.
“It was probably just an environment that suited them being huge,” Davies said. They would have had “a large supply of food from trees and plants, and not much competition from other animals.”
“Effectively they Arthropleura would have faced more competition for fewer resources, and eventually lost out to more efficient animals,” he added.