Texas is legendary for its bugs—cockroaches that scuttle across hard floors with the subtlety of a carthorse, tarantulas mistaken for compact cars, scorpions that belong in a summer blockbuster.
Okay, those aren’t all bugs. And neither is today’s #FossilFriday specimen, technically. But arthropeura armata is one giant centipede-ish critter.
(Image from senckenberg.de)
These guys roamed Europe and North America (such as they were) during the Carboniferous Period, part of the Paleozoic Era that preceded the time of dinosaurs. And yes, “Carbon-iferous” does have to do with the vast quantity of carbon that was proliferating at the time—incredible swampy forests, and increasingly exploding biological diversity. This era, along with its neighbor the Permian, have a lot to do with our current industry.
The larger members of this group of invertebrates reached upwards of seven and a half feet, making them the largest invertebrate ever discovered. The august Wiki tells us that they “would have had few, if any, predators.” Eeeee. The fossilized tracks that have been discovered indicate that it “moved quickly across the forest floor.” If we calculate the speed of a cockroach (maxing out at about 3mph) relative to the body size of the giant ancient arthropod… we’re looking at 135mph! Okay, that wasn’t very scientific. But the point is, if you jump when you see your little modern Carboniferous survivor, just imagine him taking up the entire kitchen.
Thankfully, as determined by fossilized gut contents, the ancient arthropod was a vegetarian. Because they’d be hard to squash.