Largest Invertebrate In History Is Discovered By Chance In England

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Invertebrate: A former Cambridge University student was walking along a beach in northern England when he spotted a fallen rock—a large block of sandstone that, falling off a cliff, split open and exposed the fossil of the largest invertebrate ever found by science.

The remains are from an animal of the Arthropleura genus, an arthropod that lived in the Carboniferous Period — about 326 million years ago, more than 100 million years before the Age of Dinosaurs.

The fossil is approximately 76 by 36 cm and is one of the largest arthropod remains ever found. Scientists estimate that the being would have been as big as a car, up to 2.63 meters long, 55 cm wide and weighing 50 kg.

Discovered in January 2018, the fossil was mined in May 2018, requiring four people to carry it. Researchers analyzed the remains and described their findings in an article published December 21, 2021 in the Journal of Geological Society.

Neil Davis, lead author of the paper and a professor in Cambridge University’s Department of Earth Sciences, told the press that fossils like this one are rare, as Arthropleura bodies tend to disarticulate after death. Only two comparable specimens had been found, both smaller and younger.

Fossil brought new hypotheses about Arthropleura

As a fossilized head of Arthropleura has never been found, information about the animal is limited. Still, the discovery brought new hypotheses about the species, which has become the largest invertebrate ever existing on Earth.

Before, it was believed that its size was due to an atmospheric oxygen peak that occurred in the Carboniferous and Permian periods. However, the fossil comes from rocks deposited before this peak, indicating that there may have been other reasons for its gigantism.