Wednesday, January 19

Science. The fossil of a centipede “as big as a car” discovered

“How many shoes would a giant centipede need?” “, Ask the scientists of the British learned society The Geological Society on Twitter. “We might find out! », They say. On December 21, the company revealed that the centipede fossil found on the beach at Howick Bay in Northumberland, England in January 2018 was that of “the largest insect that ever existed”.

It would have measured up to 2.63 meters long and 55 centimeters wide, for 50 kilos. And would therefore be “as big as a car”, according to the study. Arthropleura, as scientists have named it, would steal the place of the largest invertebrate in history from ancient sea scorpions.

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The creature is believed to have lived during the Carboniferous Period around 326 million years ago, more than 100 million years before the arrival of the dinosaurs. It would have survived 45 million years before disappearing, but the reason for their extinction is unknown. This could be due to the evolution of a climate to which these insects could not have adapted, or to the arrival of reptiles which would have dominated this type of habitat.

“It is difficult to know everything about them”

It is only the third Arthropleura to be discovered to date. “It is rare to find these giant centipede fossils, because once they are dead their bodies tend to disarticulate, so it is likely that the fossil is a shell that the animal has lost over time. as it grows, ”said Neil Davis, professor of sedimentary geology in the Department of Earth Sciences at Cambridge University in a statement. We haven’t found a fossilized head yet, so it’s hard to know everything about them, ”he adds.

“It was pure luck,” the researcher also recalls about this find. The rock cracked, revealing the fossil, finally discovered by a former doctoral student. It was an incredibly exciting find, the fossil is so big that it took four of us to carry it to the cliff, ”says Neil Davies. The other two Arthropleuras, which were found in Germany, were much smaller than this new specimen.

At the time, Great Britain was on the equator, which would explain this difference in morphology. The invertebrates certainly lived off the vegetation that grew in the streams and rivers, which would have favored their growth. The fossil will be on display to the public at the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge, England in 2022.

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