Newly Discovered Millipede Is First With More Than 1K legs

Eumillipedes persephone is the leggiest creature ever found
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 17, 2021 4:45 PM CST
Scientists Find a Millipede Worthy of the Name
This millipede, not a Eumillipes persephone, has nowhere near 1,000 legs.   (Getty Images)

For the first time, scientists have discovered a millipede that lives up to the name, with more than 1,000 legs. Researchers say Eumillipes persephone, a creature discovered deep in a mining borehole in Western Australia, has more legs than any other creature known to science, the New York Times reports. (See a photo here.) "Eumillipes" means "true thousand feet" and Persephone is the queen of the underworld in Greek mythology. One female specimen almost 4 inches long had a record-breaking 1,306 legs, says Paul Marek, lead author of a study published in Scientific Reports. He tells Gizmodo that counting the legs on the threadlike creature's 330 segments was a painstaking task "best done with a marker."

The previous record holder was a millipede in California with 750 legs. Marek, an entomologist at Virginia Tech, says that while the two creatures aren't closely related, they have many similarities, including superelongated bodies and a lack of eyes and pigmentation caused by living underground, the Times reports. They also have huge antennae. Marek says a total of eight Eumillipes persephone specimens were collected in 2020 and 2021, all from traps in boreholes up to 200 feet underground. The study in Scientific Reports notes that the species was only uncovered because the mining holes provided access "to a cryptic and previously unexplored underground habitat."

Researchers say the specimens were caught with traps baited with leaf litter, though their diet deep underground is probably mostly fungi, the Guardian reports. Marek tells Gizmodo that his research aims to draw attention to the biodiversity deep underground—and to prevent "something called an anonymous extinction, where a species goes extinct without knowing anything about it." He adds: "I hope we can learn more about these and conserve their habitat." (More discoveries stories.)

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