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The Biggest Bugs That Ever Lived

Giant Arthropods That Roamed the Earth in Prehistoric Times


Today's bugs may be big enough to those who don't like creepy crawlies, but they're nothing compared to the arthropods that walked the Earth in prehistoric times. Just how big were the invertebrates that lived hundreds of millions of years ago? Some recent fossil finds revealed the remarkable size of the biggest bugs that ever lived.

An ancient sea scorpion, Jaekelopterus rhenaniae, grew to 8 feet in length. Imagine a scorpion bigger than man! In 2007, Markus Poschmann unearthed a fossilized claw from this massive specimen in a German quarry. The claw measured 46 centimeters, and from this measurement, scientists were able to extrapolate the size of the prehistoric eurypterid (sea scorpion). Jaekelopterus rhenaniae lived between 460 and 255 million years ago.

A millipede-like creature known as an Arthropleura reached equally impressive sizes. Arthropleura measured as long as 6 feet, and 18 inches wide. While paleontologists have yet to find a complete fossil of Arthropluera, trace fossils found in Nova Scotia, Scotland, and the United States suggest the ancient millipede would rival an adult human being in size.

Insects, too, reached extraordinary sizes in prehistoric times. A giant dragonfly known as Meganeuropsis Permian measured an impressive 71 cm from wing tip to wing tip, a full 28 inch wing span.


  • University of Bristol (2007, November 21). Giant Fossil Sea Scorpion Bigger Than Man. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 22, 2011, from ScienceDaily.
  • Sues, Hans-Dieter (2011, January 15). Largest Land-Dwelling "Bug" of All Time. National Geographic News Watch. Retrieved March 22, 2011.
  • Evolution of the Insects, by David Grimaldi.

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