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Arthropleura is an extinct genus of giant arthropods that lived during the Carboniferous period, approximately 345 to 295 million years ago. These impressive invertebrates are known to be the largest terrestrial arthropods that have ever existed and were a prominent part of the Carboniferous fauna.

Arthropleura resembled a massive, prehistoric version of the millipedes we know today. These animals could grow to extraordinary sizes, with some species reaching lengths of up to 2.5 meters (about 8 feet) or even longer. Their body was composed of numerous segments, each equipped with a pair of legs, giving them a "giant millipede" appearance. Although enormous in terms of length, their body structure allowed them to maintain a relatively flat body and low to the ground.

Arthropleura were herbivores and fed on plants and decaying plant matter. Their jaws were adapted to crush and chew plant material, which allowed them to take advantage of abundant resources in the Carboniferous forests.

These giant arthropods inhabited the extensive humid forests that characterized the Earth during the Carboniferous period. It is believed that their colossal size had an evolutionary advantage in this environment, as it allowed them to avoid predators by being very large and potentially intimidating. In addition, their size could have provided them with greater efficiency in digestion and obtaining energy from the plant diet of the time.

Although Arthropleura are known for their impressive size, their body size decreased over time as the Carboniferous progressed and reached the Permian, and they eventually became extinct. Changes in vegetation, competition with other herbivores, and environmental factors are believed to have contributed to their disappearance.

Arthropleura fossils have been discovered in several locations, including North America and Europe, and provide a fascinating insight into life in the Carboniferous forests, where these giant arthropods reigned as the largest herbivores on Earth.

Approximate measurements of the Arthropleura:
  • Scale 1:20 - 65 mm