An alligator-sized centipede fossil found on an English beach

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Fossilized Arthropleure Armor.

AND described by a team of paleontologists shockingly large a centipede fossil found on an English beach 2018. A centipede that left a fossil was well as over 8 feet and may have been a predator.

Sometime between April 2017 and January 2018, a large block of sandstone broke off a cliff in Northumbria, England and fell about 20 feet to the beach below. A paleontologist on a casual walk along the beach found a rock and realized it contained a giant centipede fossil. A team from Cambridge University studied the finding; their results were Published today in the Journal of the Geological Society.

“It was a complete coincidence of discovery,” said Neil Davies, a paleontologist at Cambridge University and lead author of the study, at one university. liberation. “As the boulder fell, it cracked and perfectly uncovered the fossil, which one of our former doctoral students accidentally spotted while passing by.”

The creature is part of the genus Arthropleura, and lived about 326 million years ago, 100 million years before the first dinosaurs began to appear. The fossil is missing head, but it is estimated that the animal has 8 feet and 7 inches long and may have weighed over £ 100 in his lifetime.

“These would be the largest animals on land in the Carboniferous,” Davies told Gizmodo in an email. “It took four of us with a hammer and a pneumatic drill to get itut, and then there was a difficult climb to 20-meter cliffs, carrying 40 kg fossil between us. ”

The research team thinks that the fossil is not an animal itself than linen armor, called exuvium. So, even the size of the animal as it is known for this fossil may not be the largest of the centipede grew.

Based on the location of the fossil and the stone in which it was found, researchers think the exoskeleton was in a river channel, where it was filled with sandy sediment, which preserved it. The exoskeleton was found near tetrapod prints dating from the same time, indicating that giant invertebrates coexisted with vertebrates.

Reconstruction of a giant centipede.

The sandstone block also included some fossilized plants from the Carboniferous period suggesting that the giant centipede lived in a drier, more open environment than previously thought. The traditional view is that arthropleurids have lived in wetlands ever since so many of them fossils were found in coal mines that were once dense, moist forests.

Animals may have become so large in part because of the amount of oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere in the ancient past. But Arthropleura precedes the peak of that atmospheric oxygen, so other factors, such as animal nutrition, were probably at play. Davies said the animals may have been predators that got their nutrients from other invertebrates or even amphibians, if not from the leaves themselves.

These centipedes are now extinct, which may have to do with how the ancient climate changed. “Organisms lived near the equator, which became hot and dry during the Permian,” Davies said. “This has probably changed the vegetation and food may have become more scarce. At the same time, the first reptiles began to dominate terrestrial habitats, so they would face more competition for less resources. ”

Regardless of the source of their gigantism, centipedes would be a sight to behold. I am, for example, perfectly happy to admire the creativity of evolution while being thankful that I don’t have to see one of these things in the body.

More: Newly discovered centipede first with more than 1000 legs

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