Produced by the Population Genetics and Evolution class, Furman University

The Carboniferous: Arthropleura
Arthropleura were enormous segmented millipede-like creatures; the largest terrestrial arthropods that ever lived! They were protected by a hard, segmented exoskeleton that covered their entire bodies. Fossil records indicate that they were rarely prey to other organisms, perhaps because they grew to lengths longer than two meters (Hannibal 2007). Each segment had two pairs of ventral legs that allowed them to move in terrestrial and aquatic environments (Martino et al. 2009). Their legs had multiple joints that permitted a larger range of motion and articulation for lateral or forward movement, and they may have been used for digging (White 1999). The huge size of these and other arthropods (like the giant dragonfly, Meganeura) correlates with the high levels of oxygen in the atmosphere; which would be necessary to sustain such large arthropods (White 1999). Unlike modern millipedes, there is no evidence of repiratory trachea - so they must have had either book lungs or true lungs (White 1999). Arthropleura are useful tools for investigating the environment during this period, since their fossils have been discovered all over the world.

Page by Pete Calomiris

Picture from:

Hannibal J. 2007. The Discovery of a Giant Arthropod Trackway. The Explorer. Accessed March 2010.

Martino R, Greb S. 2009. Walking Trails of the Giant Terrestrial Arthropod Arthropleura from the Upper Carboniferous of Kentucky. Journal of Paleontology 83:140-146.

White AT. 1999. Class? And Order Arthropleurida. Accessed March 2010.