Researchers in the U.K. have found the fossilized exoskeleton of the largest arthropod to have ever lived. These giant millipede-like creatures were the length of a car and likely roamed Earth during the Carboniferous Period, between 359 million and 299 million years ago.
Researchers discovered the new Arthropleura fossil, which is around 326 million years old, inside a fragmented block of sandstone on a beach in Northumberland in northeast England in 2018. The exoskeleton fragment is 2.5 feet (75 centimeters) long and 1.8 feet (55 cm) wide. This means the individual that molted it would have been around 8.5 feet (2.6 meters) long and weighed around 110 pounds (50 kilograms), according to the researchers.
Here is more about Arthropleura. When Arthropleura lived, the partial pressure of oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere was greater (as high as 35% of the atmosphere, compared to 21% today). This allowed arthropods, which lack lungs and a pumped circulatory system, to grow much larger than at present.
How long was that block of sandstone sitting on that beach? People have been fighting battles for Northumberland for centuries; how many warriors blew past it never realizing it was there? These things worry me. Cars don’t worry me, but missed chances like that? All the time.
Then again, if somebody from, say, the ninth century had found it, what would they have thought of it? What would they have done with it? Composed a saga or a lay about the Sea Monster of the North? The Dragon of the Northern Strands? Beowulf 2.0?