Many people fear insects despite their small size, but these beings were once much larger and consequently more terrifying.
If a few months ago we learned of the case of a scorpion the size of a dog that lived in China 435 million years ago, now we have news of an even larger diplopod. A team of paleontologists discovered on a beach in England a fossil segment of a millipede that could measure 2.7 meters long (about the length of a car) and weigh 50 kilos.
The specimen, which was found by chance in 2018 in a large block of sandstone that had fallen from a cliff on a Northumberland beach, about 40 miles north of Newcastle, is made up of multiple segments of articulated exoskeletons, a morphology similar to that of today’s millipedes.
The fossil belongs to the species Arthropleura, of which only two much smaller specimens had been found to date. The researchers believe that to become so large the animal had a diet rich in nutrients, formed by nuts and nutritious seeds, but that they could also be predators that fed on other invertebrates or small vertebrates such as amphibians.
Researchers also believe that the large amount of oxygen in the atmosphere during the Late Carboniferous and Permian periods along with the lack of predators may have influenced its massive size. As for the cause of its extinction, although it is not yet clear, it is estimated that it could be due to global warming or the appearance of predatory reptiles.