It is a well-known fact among entomologists that the first person to name a millipede exaggerated it, because no millipede has a thousand feet, or at least so far.
But a new discovery deep in Australia has shown that the millipede is not always the wrong name. Researchers have discovered a new species of millipede that can have more than 1,300 feet. Their findings are reported in the journal Scientific Reports. Paul Tech, an entomologist at Virginia Tech, called the discovery “very exciting.” He first became aware of the animal in September 2020. At the time, he received an e-mail from Bruno Bozato, an Australian biologist, with pictures of a pale, eyeless creature with many legs attached. The creature was a few inches long, but less than a millimeter wide.
Dr. Bozato found the animal at a depth of about 61 meters underground in a narrow borehole in Western Australia. Mining companies dig these holes in search of minerals such as gold and nickel, and hire environmental consultants to study the impact of mining on wildlife.
As one of the consultants, Dr. Bozato left traps with damp leaf litter in the boreholes, and then eight pale strands were wrapped around it. “Honestly, I was thrilled to see these animals for the first time,” said Dr. Bozato. He thought they must be related to the very long California millipede.
The California millipede also lives underground, is cream-colored and has no eyes, and at 750 feet held the record for the number of feet per millipede. After studying Dr. Mark of the California millipede, Dr. Bozato sent him photographs of a strange Australian specimen for his opinion.
After painstakingly counting the sample under a microscope, it was found that the new species of millipede (scientifically named Eumillipes Persephone) has more than a thousand feet.
The researchers measured four members of the new species, and the number of tall, stalked body parts reached 330.
During the initial count, 800 feet were detected in one of the samples. This was not the end result, as the number of legs in some millipedes increases during adulthood.
The carcasses of Australian millipedes arrived in Virginia by mail a few weeks later. There, during a difficult task of counting the legs under a microscope, a 1,306-foot-tall female was found. “It was amazing, because it’s almost double the number of feet in millipedes,” Dr. Mark said. 750 feet is too much for an animal. “Now, 1306 feet is really amazing.”
Scientists make new species Eumillipes Persephone Called. The word eumilips means real millipede, and Persephone was a goddess in Greek mythology who was drawn to the underworld by Hades.
The ancestors of this species, like Persephone, must have started their life on the surface of the earth, and at some point in their evolutionary history, perhaps because the surface of Australia became drier and more unfavorable, they began to move deeper into the earth.
Genetic analysis showed that despite their striking similarities, Umilips is not a close relative of the California millipede. This shows that underground life has caused the two species to evolve in the same direction. Both species, like many cave animals, are pale and without eyes, and both have large tentacles. Dr. Mark said their very long legs may have given them more power to push and open their way on the ground.
Umilips has no eyes and a conical head with large tentacles
According to Dr. Mark, having a very long intestine may help millipedes get more nutrients from a restricted diet. “Gonzalo Girbett, an invertebrate biologist at Harvard University, says:
This is a great finding. It is not uncommon to find new species when exploring habitats that are usually not easily accessible. This discovery points to vital species that may not have been discovered yet.
Dr. Mark hopes the findings will draw researchers’ attention to the deep biodiversity that exists and is a valuable resource hidden next to precious metals. He is also excited to set a record for the maximum number of feet per thousand feet. “All textbooks should be rewritten, at least in the paragraph about millipedes,” he said. (A hundred feet, which is also misnamed, can have tens to hundreds of feet, but never exactly one hundred feet, because the number of feet is always odd).
Dr. Mark also noted that these eight specimens probably do not represent the full range of legs of this species, and that there may be millipedes that have even more legs.