Biology

First True Millipede Discovered – New Species With More Than 1,000 Legs Found Deep Underground in Australia

Millipede E persephone Legs

Researchers discovered the first millipede with more than 1,000 legs 60 meters underground in a drill hole created for mineral exploration in the mining area of the Eastern Goldfields Province of Australia. Credit: P. Marek et al., 2021, Scientific Reports

The discovery of the first millipede with more than 1,000 legs is reported in Scientific Reports this week. Prior to this, no millipede had been found with more than 750 legs.

Paul Marek and colleagues discovered the millipede 60 meters underground in a drill hole created for mineral exploration in the mining area of the Eastern Goldfields Province of Australia. It has 1,306 legs — more than any other animal — and belongs to a new species that has been named Eumillipes persephone. The millipede’s name derives from the Greek word eu- (true), the Latin words mille (thousand) and pes (foot), and references the Greek goddess of the underworld, Persephone. The authors measured four members of the new species and found that they have long, thread-like bodies consisting of up to 330 segments and are up to 0.95mm wide and 95.7mm long. They are eyeless, have short legs, and cone-shaped heads with antennae and a beak.

Named Eumillipes persephone, this millipede has 1,306 legs — more than any other animal. Credit: P. Marek et al., 2021, Scientific Reports

Analysis of the relationships between species suggests that E. persephone is distantly related to the previous record holder for the greatest number of legs — the Californian millipede species, Illacme plenipes. The authors suggest that the large number of segments and legs that have evolved in both species may allow them to generate pushing forces that enable them to move through narrow openings in the soil habitats they live in.

Credit: P. Marek et al., 2021, Scientific Reports
Credit: P. Marek et al., 2021, Scientific Reports
Credit: P. Marek et al., 2021, Scientific Reports

The findings highlight the biodiversity found within the Eastern Goldfields Province. To minimize the impact of mining in this region on E. persephone, the authors advise that efforts should be made to conserve its underground habitat.

Reference: “The first true millipede—1306 legs long” by Paul E. Marek, Bruno A. Buzatto, William A. Shear, Jackson C. Means, Dennis G. Black, Mark S. Harvey and Juanita Rodriguez, 16 December 2021, Scientific Reports.
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-02447-0

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  • I have so many questions. Why was it 60 m down a man-made hole? Did it fall in? How is that possible for something with so many opportunities to gain a foot-hold? Was there only one found in the hole? Can it dig through rock 60 m down? Does it live in teeny tiny tunnels that far underground? What possible evolutionary purpose could all that redundant backend serve the head and digestive tract of this thing?

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