New bug earns millipede title
The first true millipede - a bug with over 1,000 legs - has been discovered in Western Australia.
Before the discovery of the leggy new example, no millipede had ever been found with more than 750 legs, but this ultimate ‘pede has 1,306 legs – more than any other animal.
Researcher Paul Marek and colleagues discovered four specimens of the millipede 60 metres underground in a drill hole created for mineral exploration in the mining area of the Eastern Goldfields Province of Western Australia.
They belong to a new species that has been named Eumillipes persephone.
The 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 say the new species has 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.
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.
To minimise the impact of mining on E. persephone, the authors advise that efforts should be made to conserve its underground habitat.