(CNN) – Millipedes have many legs. It is the hallmark of this creature, which is neither a worm nor an insect.
However, although its name derives from the Latin millipede (mil) and foot (bes), millipedes have not been found more than 750 feet tall…so far.
Scientists have discovered the first millipede to have over 1,000 feet: 1,306 to be exact, and the largest number of legs of any living creature on Earth. This creature was found living at a depth of 60 meters in a hole created for mineral exploration in Western Australia.
This eyeless invertebrate measures 9.5 cm in length and 1 mm in width and has 330 body segments, antennae, feeding beak, and a conical head.
“It’s like pulling a white thread 3 inches from a shirt (but it had 1,306 legs),” Paul Marek, assistant professor in the department of entomology at Virginia Tech, said by email.
How do you calculate the legs of such a small creature?
To make sure no limbs are lost or counted twice, Marek said he color-coded each 10-leg segment using a high-resolution image of the loosened millennia in Adobe Illustrator.
“I went back three times and it took about an hour,” said Marek, author of the study published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports.
It is possible that Eumillipes persephone, as it is officially called the millipede, is most closely related to the previous record holder for the largest number of legs, based on an analysis of taxonomic relationships between millipede species. The Californian species of millipede, Illacme plenipes, has a length of up to 750 feet.
Navigating the Underground Habitat
The authors suggested that the large number of parts and legs that evolved in both species may allow them to generate thrust forces that allow them to move through narrow openings in the soil in which they live.
While surface temperatures in the Eastern Goldfield Province, where the millipedes are found, are sometimes above 46°C, the groundwater sites where the millipedes were collected have never exceeded 22°C.
The authors, from Australia and the United States, note that other unknown underground invertebrates have been discovered in recent years, such as beetles and millipedes in iron ore caves in Brazil and spiders in caves on the Brazilian Plateau. Edwards, in Texas.
“These subterranean habitats and their inhabitants are under critical study, despite their ecological importance in filtering groundwater and environmental toxins,” the study authors said.
The researchers recommended minimizing the impact of mining in this area to conserve subterranean habitats.
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