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Arthropleura (Greek for Jointed Ribs) is a genus of extinct, 0.3–2.6 metre (1–8.5 feet) long millipede arthropods, native to the upper Carboniferous (340 to 280 million years ago) of what is now northeastern North America and Scotland. The larger species of the genus are the largest known land invertebrates of all time, and would have had few, if any, predators.

Description and behaviorEdit

Contrary to earlier and popular beliefs, Arthropleura was not a predator but a herbivorous arthropod. Because none of the known fossils have the mouth preserved, scientists suppose that Arthropleura did not have strongly sclerotized and powerful mouth parts, because such would have been preserved at least in some of the fossils. Some fossils have been found with lycopod fragments and pteridophyte spores in the gut and in associated coprolites.[1]

Fossilized footprints from Arthropleura have been found in many places. These appear as long, parallel rows of small prints, which show that it moved quickly across the forest floor, swerving to avoid obstacles, such as trees and rocks. Its tracks have the ichnotaxon name Diplichnites cuithensis.[2][3]

Arthropleura was able to grow larger than modern arthropods, partly because of the greater partial pressure of oxygen in Earth's atmosphere at that time, and because of the lack of large terrestrial vertebrate predators.[4] Arthropleura became extinct at the start of the Permian period, when the moist climate began drying out, destroying the rainforests of the Carboniferous, and allowing the desertification characteristic of the Permian.

In popular cultureEdit

Arthropleura was featured in the BBC series Walking With Monsters (2005)[6] as well as in Prehistoric Park (2006)[7] and First Life (2010). It was also used as the central time-shifted creature in the second episode of the ITV series Primeval (2007), although the production increased the Arthropleura to six meters in length, and gave it a venomous bite.

ReferencesEdit

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