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What Were Ancient Millipedes Like?

Ancient millipedes crawled through prehistoric landscapes, showcasing a diversity that mirrors today's species yet with unique, extinct traits. Imagine creatures with armored segments and myriad legs, some as long as a car! Their fossilized remains offer a window into a bygone era of Earth's history. How did they live, and what secrets do they hold? Uncover the story of these fascinating arthropods with us.

If bugs creep you out, stop reading. You might think you've seen your share of frightening little insects, but until you've come across a millipede from prehistoric times, you have no idea. On a beach in Northumberland, England, a researcher recently happened upon the fossilized remains of a prehistoric millipede that scientists estimate was the size of a small car. And no, not a toy car.

The giant Arthropleura stomped the sand about 300 million years ago, and the latest find is the largest ever discovered. "The biggest articulated specimens we had previously known about, which were found in Germany, suggested that Arthropleura could reach a length of two metres and was the largest land-living arthropod of all time," said Dr. Greg Edgecombe, a specialist in arthropod evolution. "This new specimen raises the bar." Other giant insects that existed during the same time as the millipede include the Meganeura, a dragonfly-like bug the size of a bird.

More on millipedes:

  • Despite their name, millipedes do not have 1,000 legs; the most legs ever found on one bug is 750.

  • Millipedes coil into little balls when threatened, using the hard plates (tergites) on their back to protect their soft undersides.

  • Unlike some small creatures, millipedes can live for 10 years or more.

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    • Researchers have discovered the fossilized remains of a prehistoric millipede that was the size of a small car.
      By: Spencer Wright
      Researchers have discovered the fossilized remains of a prehistoric millipede that was the size of a small car.