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Temporal range: Moscovian-Gzhelian, 315–299 Ma
Arthropleura armata.jpg
Fossil of A. armata at the Senckenberg Museum of Frankfurt
Arthropleura NT small.jpg
Life restoration of A. armata
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Diplopoda
Order: Arthropleurida
Waterlot, 1933
Family: Arthropleuridae
Zittel, 1885
Genus: Arthropleura
Meyer, 1854
  • A. armata Meyer, 1854
  • A. britannica Andrée, 1913
  • A. cristata Richardson, 1959
  • A. enodis Guthörl, 1934
  • A. maillieuxi Pruvost, 1930
  • A. mammata Salter, 1863
  • A. moyseyi Calman, 1914
  • A. punctata Goldenberg, 1873

A. armata

  • A. affinis Goldenberg, 1873
  • A. zeilleri Boule, 1893

Arthropleura (Greek for jointed ribs) is a genus of extinct millipede arthropods that lived in what is now northeastern North America and Scotland around 315 to 299 million years ago, during the late Carboniferous Period. The larger species of the genus are the largest known land invertebrates of all time, and would have had few, if any, predators.


Size compared to a human

Arthropleura ranged in length from A. moyseyi, which was only about 0.3 metres long[2], to A. armata which was 2.5 metres long.[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]

The flattened body of Arthropleura is composed of approximately 30 jointed segments, each of which was covered by two side plates and one center plate. The ratio of pairs of legs to body segments was approximately 8:6, similar to some present-day millipedes.[5]


Fossil footprints of Arthropleura, Laggan Harbour, Isle of Arran, Scotland. This trail is the type specimen of the ichnospecies Diplichnites cuithensis.

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.[6]

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.[7][8] Tracks from Arthropleura up to 50 cm wide have been found at Joggins, Nova Scotia.[9]


Arthropleura became extinct at the end of the Carboniferous period, when the moist climate began drying out, reducing the rainforests of the Carboniferous, and allowing the desertification characteristic of the Permian.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Arthropleura". Fossilworks: Gateway to the Paleobiology Database. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  2. ^ P. Pruvost. 1930. La faune continentale du terrain houiller de la Belgique. Mémoires du Musée Royal d'Histoire Naturelle de Belgique 44:105-282
  3. ^
  4. ^ M. G. Lockley & Christian Meyer (2013). "The tradition of tracking dinosaurs in Europe". Dinosaur Tracks and Other Fossil Footprints of Europe. Columbia University Press. pp. 25–52. ISBN 9780231504607.
  5. ^ Sues, Hans-Dieter. "Largest Land-Dwelling "Bug" of All Time". National Geographic. Ford Cochran. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  6. ^ A. C. Scott; W. G. Chaloner & S. Paterson (1985). "Evidence of pteridophyte–arthropod interactions in the fossil record" (PDF). Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. 86B: 133–140.
  7. ^ Adrian P. Hunt; Spencer G. Lucas; Allan Lerner; Joseph T. Hannibal (2004). "The giant Arthropleura trackway Diplichnites cuithensis from the Cutler Group (Upper Pennsylvanian) of New Mexico". Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs. 36 (5): 66.
  8. ^ Briggs, D. E.; Plint, A. G. & Pickerill, R. K. (1984). "Arthropleura trails from the Westphalian of eastern Canada" (PDF). Palaeontology. 27 (4): 843–855.
  9. ^ "The Excitement of Discovery". Virtual Museum of Canada. Archived from the original on February 4, 2012. Retrieved 2006-04-17.
  10. ^ Thom Holmes (2008). "The first land animals". March Onto Land: the Silurian Period to the Middle Triassic Epoch. The Prehistoric Earth. Infobase Publishing. pp. 57–84. ISBN 9780816059591.

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