The first true millipede—1306 legs long

Paul E. Marek, Bruno A. Buzatto, William A. Shear, Jackson C. Means, Dennis G. Black, Mark S. Harvey, Juanita Rodriguez

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Abstract

The name “millipede” translates to a thousand feet (from mille “thousand” and pes “foot”). However, no millipede has ever been described with more than 750 legs. We discovered a new record-setting species of millipede with 1,306 legs, Eumillipes persephone, from Western Australia. This diminutive animal (0.95 mm wide, 95.7 mm long) has 330 segments, a cone-shaped head with enormous antennae, and a beak for feeding. A distant relative of the previous record holder, Illacme plenipes from California, it belongs to a different order, the Polyzoniida. Discovered 60 m below ground in a drill hole created for mineral exploration, E. persephone possesses troglomorphic features; it lacks eyes and pigmentation, and it has a greatly elongated body—features that stand in stark contrast to its closest surface-dwelling relatives in Australia and all other members of its order. Using phylogenomics, we found that super-elongation (> 180 segments) evolved repeatedly in the millipede class Diplopoda. The striking morphological similarity between E. persephone and I. plenipes is a result of convergent evolution, probably for locomotion in similar soil habitats. Discovered in the resource-rich Goldfields-Esperance region and threatened by encroaching surface mining, documentation of this species and conservation of its habitat are of critical importance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number23126
Number of pages8
JournalScientific Reports
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Entomology
  • Millepedes
  • Eumillipes persephone

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