The rib joint, Arthropleura (1853)
Phylum : Arthropoda
Subphylum : Myriapoda
Class : Arthropleuridea
Order : Arthropleurida
Family : Arthropleuridae
Genus : Arthropleura
Species : A. armata, A. moyseyi, A. britannica, A. cristata, A. maillieuxi, A. mammata
- Early Carboniferous/middle Permian (318 - 270 Ma)
- 2,6 m long (size)
- North America and Scotland (map)
Contrary to earlier and popular beliefs, Arthropleura was not a predator but an 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.
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.
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.Arthropleura became extinct at the start of the Permian period, when the moist climate began drying out, destroying the rainforests of the Carboniferous, and allowing the desertification characteristic of the Permian.