Although the name “millipede” derives from the Latin phrase for “one thousand feet,” nobody has ever actually found one of the squirmy invertebrate animals with as many legs. Until now, that is. Scientists have discovered a new species of millipede in Western Australia with more than 1,000 legs. About three hundred more.
Gizmodo reported on the discovery of the genuine millipede, which turned up in a mineral-exploration drill hole. Paul Marek, an entomologist at Virginia Tech and lead author of a paper describing the millipede published in Scientific Reports, told Gizmodo the invertebrate turned up almost 200 feet in the ground. In complete darkness.
“This diminutive animal [that’s only 3.8 inches long] has 330 segments, a cone-shaped head with enormous antennae, and a beak for feeding,” Marek and his colleagues write in their paper. The scientists have dubbed the millipede, which marks a new genus and species, Eumillipes persephone. Eumillipes, the genus name, is a combination of the Greek eu-, meaning “true” and the Latin word for thousand, mille. The species name stems from the Greek mythological goddess of the underworld, Persephone.
Milli- means 1,000. Ped or pes means🦶. So all millipedes must have 1,000 feet. Nope! In fact, none did...Until now! #NSFfunded scientists have discovered the first true millipede - Eumillipes persephone. This helps expand knowledge of the diversity of these important insects. pic.twitter.com/30WOEhuPBW— National Science Foundation (@NSF) December 16, 2021
The millipede has exactly 1,306 legs—Marek et al. counted them one by one—and lacks eyes and pigmentation. Along with its greatly elongated body, those traits help it stand in stark contrast to surface-dwelling relatives.
The scientists say that E. persephone not only has the most legs out of any millipede but any animal period. The previous record-holder for most millipede legs appeared in California in 2006, although it only had 750 legs. Another “virtual” millipede, as Marek told Gizmodo.
Despite its incredible number of legs, E. persephone cannot outrun encroaching surface miners. A big problem, as Gizmodo notes that scientists have only recovered eight individual specimens so far. Hopefully, there are at least as many E. persephone out there as there are E. persephone legs.