Website powered by

Swamp of Giants - The Carboniferous of Scotland

A view of the swamps that covered the territory that would become Scotland. Lower Carboniferous, Viséan age.

This environment was a lair of giants, but different ones from those we are used to today: arthropods reached extraordinary sizes, and the forests were mostly formed by huge arboreal lycophytes. Lycophytes are one of the oldest groups of vascular plants, and they reproduce by spores rather than seeds. In contrast to these Carboniferous titans, they have only small living species.

Among the plants in the scene, the most abundant is Lepidodendron, a lycophyte with a scaly looking trunk that reached up to 50m in height. The other trees illustrated are the other lycophyte Sigillaria, some giant horsetails Calamites and the gymnosperm Cordaites. Smaller plants are the "seed fern" (which is not a fern, despite its popular name) Medullosa and the horsetail Sphenophyllum.

One of the largest known arthropods, the millipede Arthropleura, appears crossing a fallen Lepidodendron trunk. The largest species of this probable herbivore could reach 2m in length. Also on the trunk is the small (a bit more than 40cm) temnospondyl Balanerpeton.

Another giant arthropod, this time a predator, is hunting in the right corner of the scene: a Pulmonoscorpius, a scorpion that could reach 70cm, grabs a Westlothiana by the tail. This small lizard-like animal is a relative of the first amniotes.

In addition to this true scorpion, one of the popularly called "sea scorpions" is also seen emerging from the water in the background. Hibbertopterus, an Eurypterid (close relatives of arachnids) that grew to over 1.5 m, clumsily crawls onto dry land - a behavior recorded in fossil trackways, showing that the animal could survive for some time out of the water. Also in the water, the stem-tetrapod Crassigyrinus emerges to observe the surface, and the shark Tristychius appears in the left corner, with each of its dorsal fins equipped with a spine.

New artwork for Tales from the Phanerozoic, a project by João Macêdo. Check out the Carboniferous chapter with the backstory of the scene and detailed information about its environment and creatures:
https://sites.google.com/view/talesfromthephanerozoic/the-paleozoic/unusual-titans

Arthropleura

Arthropleura

Pulmonoscorpius and Westlothiana

Pulmonoscorpius and Westlothiana

 Balanerpeton and Crassigyrinus

Balanerpeton and Crassigyrinus

Forest detail

Forest detail