Fossil of the largest millipede that ever lived found on English beach

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Arthropleura was the largest millipede ever to live, and palaeontologists person conscionable recovered the fossilised remains of the longest specimen yet connected a formation successful bluish England

Life 21 December 2021

By Chen Ly

Reconstruction of the elephantine  millipede Arthropleura, which lived successful  the Carboniferous period, 326 cardinal  years ago

Reconstruction of the elephantine millipede Arthropleura, which lived 326 cardinal years ago

Neil Davies

The remains of a 326-million-year-old elephantine millipede, known arsenic Arthropleura, person been recovered by researchers connected a formation successful Northumberland successful the UK. With a magnitude of implicit 2.5 metres, Arthropleura is the largest arthropod – invertebrates with jointed legs specified arsenic scorpions and crabs – ever to person existed connected Earth. The caller specimen appears to beryllium the largest recovered to date.

In January 2018, Neil Davies astatine the University of Cambridge and his colleagues stumbled crossed the fossil by accidental connected Howick Beach successful Northumberland during a geological circuit of England and Wales.

“We saw that determination was a precise ample portion of sandstone cliff that had fallen disconnected and it had divided down the mediate arsenic it fell,” says Davies. “We had a speedy highest wrong the ace that had formed and saw that determination was a truly ample fossil wrong there.”

After extracting the remains, the squad determined it was a conception from the rear of Arthropleura. This conception was astir 76 centimetres agelong and 36 centimetres wide. The squad past calculated that the carnal indispensable primitively person been 2.63 metres agelong and 55 centimetres wide.

“We tin estimation they are the largest arthropod to person ever walked connected Earth,” says Davies. It was perchance larger adjacent than the largest eurypterid, oregon oversea scorpion, which lived astir the aforesaid clip arsenic Arthropleura.

The situation successful which the fossil was recovered was antithetic to what researchers had expected. “It comes from a sandy delta environment, alternatively than a ember wood that [Arthropleura] is often illustrated arsenic surviving in,” says Davies.

In addition, the researchers dated the fossil to the aboriginal Carboniferous period. This is overmuch older than the lone different 2 Arthropleura fossils, that were discovered successful Germany a period ago.

This besides predates the emergence successful atmospheric oxygen that has often been cited arsenic the crushed these millipedes were truthful large, which suggests a request to rethink however these creatures whitethorn person evolved.

“There’s plentifulness of things retired determination near to beryllium discovered, adjacent successful places wherever radical person looked galore times before,” says Davies. “When you find these things, it builds a representation of the alternate benignant of Earth that that existed successful the past.”

Journal reference: Journal of the Geological Society, DOI: 10.1144/jgs2021-115

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