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They discover the real millipede: the first with more than a thousand legs

The term ' millipede ' is used to refer to diplopods that have two pairs of 'feet' per segment (unlike centipedes, which have one pair of legs for each ring); However, the name does not show up to reality: all the species discovered have between 34 and 750 limbs . Now an Australian team has just found the first 'true' millipede, with 1,306 legs . The finding has just been published in the journal 'Scientific Reports'.

It was 60 meters deep, in a mining shaft in the Eastern Goldfields province (Australia), where Paul Marek and his colleagues discovered such a famous animal, which belongs to a new species called Eumillipes persephone .

The name of the millipede derives from the Greek word eu- (true), the Latin words mille (thousand) and pes (foot), and refers to 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 measuring up to 0.95 millimeters wide and 95.7 millimeters long. They have no eyes, have short legs and cone-shaped heads with antennae and beak.

Dorsal view of the head and ventral view of the gonopods of a male Eumillipes persephone –

The analysis of the relationships between the species suggests that E. persephone is distantly related to the previous record holder for the greatest number of legs: the California 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 thrust forces that allow them to move through narrow openings in the soil habitats in which they live.

Ventral view of the legs of a male Eumillipes persephone –

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

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