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Millipede as ‘Big as a Car’ Found in Northern England



The largest-ever fossil of a giant millipede, the size of a car, has been discovered on a beach in northern England.

The fossil, which is the remains of a creature called Arthropleura, dates from the Carboniferous Period, approximately 326 million years ago, more than 100 million years before the Age of Dinosaurs. The fossil reveals that Arthropleura was the largest-known invertebrate animal of all time, larger than the previous record holders, ancient sea scorpions.

The specimen, discovered on a Northumberland beach about 40 miles north of Newcastle, is composed of multiple articulated exoskeleton segments that resemble modern millipedes in shape. It is only the third such fossil to be discovered. It is also the oldest and largest segment: the segment is approximately 75 centimeters long, whereas the original creature is estimated to have been approximately 2.7 meters long and weighed approximately 50 kilograms. The findings were published in the Journal of the Geological Society.

The fossil was discovered in a large block of sandstone that had fallen from a cliff to the beach at Howick Bay in Northumberland in January 2018. “It was a complete fluke of a discovery,” said the paper’s lead author, Dr. Neil Davies of Cambridge’s Department of Earth Sciences. “Because of the way the boulder fell, it cracked open and perfectly exposed the fossil, which one of our former Ph.D. students happened to notice while walking by.”

A fossilized section of the giant millipede Arthropleura was discovered in a sandstone boulder in northern England. Photographer: Neil Davies.

Unlike today’s cool and wet weather, Northumberland had a more tropical climate during the Carboniferous Period, when Britain was near the Equator. Invertebrates and early amphibians fed on the vegetation that grew around a network of creeks and rivers. The researchers discovered the specimen in a fossilized river channel: it was most likely a molted segment of the Arthropleura’s exoskeleton that filled with sand and preserved it for hundreds of millions of years.

The fossil was extracted in May 2018 with permission from Natural England and the Howick Estate, the landowners. “It was an incredibly exciting find,” Davies said, “but the fossil is so large that it took four of us to carry it up the cliff face.”

The fossil was brought back to Cambridge to be thoroughly examined. It was compared to all previous records, revealing new details about the animal’s habitat and evolution. The animal can be found only in places that were once near the Equator, such as Great Britain during the Carboniferous period. Previously, it was thought that the animal lived in coal swamps, but this specimen revealed that Arthropleura preferred open woodland habitats near the coast.

A fossil of the giant millipede Arthropleura is removed from a beach in northern England by scientists. Photographer: Neil Davies.

Only two other Arthropleura fossils are known, both from Germany and much smaller than the new specimen. Despite the fact that this is the largest Arthropleura fossil skeleton ever discovered, there is still a lot to learn about these creatures. “Finding these giant millipede fossils is rare because their bodies tend to disarticulate once they die, so the fossil is most likely a molted carapace that the animal shed as it grew,” Davies explained. “Because we haven’t yet discovered a fossilized head, it’s difficult to know everything about them.”

The large size of Arthropleura was previously attributed to a peak in atmospheric oxygen during the late Carboniferous and Permian periods, but because the new fossil comes from rocks deposited prior to this peak, oxygen cannot be the only explanation.

Arthropleura must have had a high-nutrient diet, according to the researchers, in order to grow to such a large size. “While we can’t be certain what they ate, there were plenty of nutritious nuts and seeds available in the leaf litter at the time, and they could even have been predators that fed on other invertebrates and even small vertebrates like amphibians,” Davies said.

Arthropleura animals crawled around the equatorial region of Earth for about 45 million years before becoming extinct during the Permian period. The cause of their extinction is unknown, but it could have been due to global warming, which caused the climate to become too dry for them to survive, or to the rise of reptiles, which outcompeted them for food and soon dominated the same habitats.

In the coming year, the fossil will be on display at Cambridge’s Sedgwick Museum.

Neil Davies is a Churchill College, Cambridge, Fellow.


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‘Queen’ Founding Member Shares Crop Circle Picture



On May 24th, Brian May, a founding member of the rock band Queen who later earned a Ph.D. in astrophysics, posted several images to Instagram of a crop circle seen near Marlborough, England.

“Have you noticed anything out of the ordinary here in the English countryside?” The photos were captioned by May. “I’d never seen a crop circle before. As a result, I’m always skeptical of them. But yesterday, as we flew back from our production rehearsal space, over a location near Marlborough, there was this. […] Who creates these fascinating works of mathematical art? Is it a hoax? Are they created by extraterrestrials? And… how…? And what is their goal?”
Responses to May’s post have been mixed, with some claiming that the phenomenon is paranormal, while others believe that hoaxers are to blame.

Crop circles have sparked speculation in the modern era since at least the mid-1970s, with theories ranging from hoaxers to otherworldly beings to “earth energies.”

Despite the fact that people have claimed responsibility for certain crop circle formations, mysterious circles of flattened plants discovered in fields date back much further than modern-day hoaxers.

W.Y. Evans-Wentz recorded folktales of faeries coming in the night to thresh farmers’ grain in his 1911 book The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries. Similarly, in 1678, an English woodcut pamphlet depicts ‘The Mowing-Devil,’ who is shown mowing crops in a circular pattern.

While some dismiss these as folkloric inspiration for modern-day hoaxers, others see them as proof of a phenomenon that predates man-made imitation.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the crop circle photographed by May.


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DoD Announces Expanded Effort to Investigate UFOs



According to a press release issued by the Department of Defense (DoD):

Due to the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2022, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), amended her original directive to the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence & Security on July 15, 2022, by renaming and expanding the scope of the Airborne Object Identification and Management Group (AOIMSG) to the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO).

USD(I&S) Hon. Ronald S. Moultrie informed the department today of the establishment of AARO within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security, and named Dr. Sean M. Kirkpatrick, most recently the chief scientist at the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Missile and Space Intelligence Center, as its director.

The AARO’s mission will be to coordinate efforts across the Department of Defense and other federal departments and agencies in the United States to detect, identify, and attribute objects of interest in, on, or near military installations, operating areas, training areas, special use airspace, and other areas of interest, and, as needed, to mitigate any associated threats to operational safety and national security. Anomaly, unidentified space, airborne, submerged, and transmedium objects are included.

Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security (USD(I&S)) Ronald Moultrie will lead the AARO Executive Council (AAROEXEC), which will provide oversight and direction to the AARO along the following primary lines of effort:

1. Surveillance, Collection and Reporting
2. System Capabilities and Design
3. Intelligence Operations and Analysis
4. Mitigation and Defeat
5. Governance
6. Science and Technology

This newly reported expansion of the Pentagon’s UFO investigation program follows low congressional trust in their investigative efforts.

Following the release of the much-anticipated preliminary assessment report on UFOs by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence last year, many in the intelligence community were critical of what they saw as the report’s failure to offer any concrete explanations for most of the incidents examined, particularly in light of concerns about secret Russian or Chinese technology.

The Pentagon then promised to revamp the task force in charge of investigating UFOs, which resulted in the formation of the AOIMSG, which has since been renamed the AARO.

This reflects Congress’ growing interest in UFOs, which was most recently demonstrated during a House Intelligence Subcommittee hearing on the subject last May—the first of its kind in more than 50 years.

The congressional hearing allowed lawmakers to question the Pentagon about unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP)—the current government term for UFOs—and for government officials to explain their current position and outline plans to investigate the issue further.

During the hearing, there were few mentions of extraterrestrials, though the Pentagon did express a particular interest in reports containing unusual flight characteristics such as incredible speed, transmedium capabilities, and undetectable means of propulsion.

Since the existence of the Pentagon’s Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP), which reportedly ran from 2007 to 2012, was made public in 2017, congressional interest in UFOs has skyrocketed.

Interest in the encounters between Navy pilots and UFOs grew, and in 2019, several senators, including Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), then vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, were briefed on them.

The Senate Intelligence Committee, led at the time by Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), then included a directive in their Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 ordering the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to create a report on “unidentified aerial phenomena” in consultation with the Secretary of Defense.

That bill resulted in the formation of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force (UAPTF), which was in charge of producing the aforementioned preliminary assessment report.


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The Marlborough Monkey is a Cryptid Fans Classic



The latest documentary by researcher and filmmaker Karac St. Laurent, The Legend of the Marlborough Monkey, takes a fresh look at an older and often overlooked series of cryptid sightings in New Hampshire.

Most people don’t think of Bigfoot sightings in the northeastern United States, but St. Laurent has made a compelling case for taking the subject seriously while still having fun along the way.

The film is a tribute to the classic cryptid documentaries of the 1970s, and it was shot to look like an 8mm film being watched on a VHS tape. With thematic music and Robert Ready’s absolutely perfect deadpan narration, viewers could be forgiven for not immediately recognizing this as a documentary shot in 2021.

Despite its aesthetic, the film is very much a product of modern investigation, and St. Laurent conducts field investigations using equipment anachronistic to the 1970s, both solo and in collaboration with Small Town Monsters alum Aleksandar Petakov.

When some filmmakers might have been content to show only the interviews with researchers and witnesses included in the documentary, the field investigations were a nice touch. Folklorist John Horrigan is an especially bright addition to an already entertaining documentary, and his unique blend of wit and historical storytelling could have carried the film on its own.

Horrigan, interestingly, coined the term “The Marlborough Monkey” to describe the hairy humanoid being reported by New Hampshire residents in the 1990s, based on one account in which the witness said the creature looked like an orangutan. Those reports never stopped, and sightings of ‘The Marlborough Monkey’ are still being reported today.

St. Laurent, however, does not stop with stories; similarly to his first documentary, Release the Bodette Film, a variety of evidence is presented for the viewers to peruse. Much like that film, the viewer is ultimately left to decide what to believe, despite the fact that the vast majority of the film approaches the subject from a staunchly materialistic standpoint. Petakov makes a passing reference to high strangeness during an interview late in the film, but otherwise the assumption is that if something strange is going on, it’s most likely an undiscovered primate. This isn’t necessarily a negative, depending on your point of view, and those who prefer materialist science in the hunt for cryptids will appreciate the film’s mainstream take on the phenomenon.

That viewpoint is consistent with the 1970s-era documentaries to which it pays homage, and given the evidence presented, there’s never any sense that the investigation should be taking a different path. If The Legend of Boggy Creek is one of your favorite documentaries, check out The Legend of the Marlborough Monkey.

The Legend of the Marlborough Monkey has a run time of 43:14 and will be available to watch for free on the Crash-Course Cryptozoology YouTube channel starting at noon on September 12th. Expect it to be available on DVD around Thanksgiving.


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