A newly discovered millipede has more legs than any other creature on earth – 1300 of them are incredible. Long legged creatures live deep on the earth’s surface and are the only known millipedes worthy of the name.
“The term millipede has always been a bit of a misnomer,” said Paul Marek, an entomologist at Virginia Tech He is the lead author of a study describing the newly discovered species. All other known millipedes have much fewer legs than their name implies, and many species have fewer than 100 legs. So far, the record holder is a species called illacme plenipes, a deep earth creature known to have up to 750 legs.
But the newly discovered species, umilipus Persephone, is named after Persephone. Persephone, the daughter of Zeus and brought to hell by Hades, is the longest legged animal known on earth. One sample analyzed by Malik had 1306 legs, breaking the current record.
The new world record holder is a pale, eyeless creature with a long, linear body nearly 100 times longer than its width. Its conical head has huge antennae, which can navigate in the dark world controlled by pheromones, and a beak suitable for eating fungi. Marek says the legs are hard to count because the animal tends to coil like a watch spring.
“I suspect these animals live very long,” Marek told LiveScience. Millipedes grow steadily and increase body parts called rings throughout their lives. Entomologists can calculate these fragments like tree rings to determine the relative age between individuals of the same species.
Marek analyzed a total of four specimens – two males and two females, with different lengths and therefore different ages. The shortest one has 198 rings and 778 legs. The longest one has 330 rings and 1306 legs. Considering that other species of millipedes increase the frequency of body segments, this shows that the life span of Aedes Perseus is usually between 5 and 10 years compared with the typical 2-year life span of other millipedes.
But don’t expect to see these things in the fallen leaves in your backyard. This species was found 200 feet (60 meters) below the surface in a relatively unexplored environment formed by banded iron and volcanic rocks.
These organisms were first discovered in an area called gold mine in Western Australia, which is the link of mineral mining. Marek said the nickel and cobalt exploration company drilled a deep and narrow hole 65 to 328 feet (20 to 100 meters) deep. If the miners could not find the metal, the holes would be sealed and abandoned.
“Not long ago, entomologists in Western Australia proposed the idea of sampling these boreholes,” because they provide a great opportunity to observe underground ecosystems. By placing cups of fallen leaves and other debris to a certain depth, waiting for a few weeks, and then retrieving them, researchers can sample the various creatures that thrive under our feet. The longest legged species on earth is such a discovery.
Marek said the new findings showed that “there are more discoveries to be done”. Marek said that although species living so deep under our feet seem to disappear from surface life, these ecosystems play an important ecological role related to surface life. Underground decomposers help recycle nutrients that surface organisms rely on, and the deep soil in which these animals live filters toxins from our drinking water. However, we still know little about the world under our feet.
“There’s more biodiversity there,” he said. “We just don’t have a comprehensive understanding.”