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Class? and Order Arthropleurida


The arthropleurids were a group of small to huge (up to 1.5 to 2 meters) Paleozoic millipede-like herbivores or detritovores that flourished during the Carboniferous period. They were the largest terrestrial arthropods ever to live. It is most likely that the lack of large terrestrial vertebrate predators enabled them to grow so large. They preferred the moist coal swamps, and may have possibly been burrowers in the undergrowth.  They are distinguished by prominent keeled tergites, and legs with eight segments and well sclerotised (armoured) exoskeleton. Like myriapods they have many trunk segments, but there the resemblance ends.  There is no trace of spiracles, so the creatures may have used lungs or moistened gills.  Arthropleura may have had as many as 30 pairs of legs, and their tracks, resembling caterpillar tractor tracks, have been found at the famous Joggins deposits of Nova Scotia.

According to S. M. Manton, arthropleurids have no clear relationship with other Uniramia. Recent findings suggest that the Arthropleurida, despite their huge size and unique features, may be included among the millipedes. This explanation however fails to explain aquatic early forms like Eoarthrolpeura, since no aquatic myriapods are known

The arthropleurids died out with the drying of the climate that brought an end to the great coal swamps that they inhabited.

Two families have been described:

Family Eoarthropleuridae - Emsian to Frasnian (Devonian)
Family Arthropleuridae - Serpukhovian/Bashkirian to Gzelian (Carboniferous)


The Fossil Record II (ed. Mike Benton)



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page uploaded 17 June 2002
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(originally uploaded on Kheper Site 31 May 1999)
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