During an underground environmental impact assessment in Western Australia, experts discovered the first-ever millipede with more than 1,000 legs.
The new species has been given the name Eumillipes Persephone, after Persephone, the Greek goddess of the underworld.
This first genuine millipede has 1,306 legs and was discovered up to 60 meters deep in a mining area in Western Australia’s Eastern Goldfields region.
It breaks the previous record set by Illacme plenipes, which is found in central California and has 750 legs.
With tiny legs and a cone-shaped head, the species has a long, thread-like body with 330 segments. It is blind and pallid, just like other animals in constant darkness.
Millipedes differ from centipedes in that most of their body segments contain two pairs of legs, whereas centipedes only have one.
Dr. Juanita Rodriguez, a CSIRO insect expert and research collaborator, believes the new species’ length evolved to ease travel underground.
“The more length you have, the more strength to propel forward,” she said. She said that the millipede’s more than 300 body segments would also give it a greater force for movement in rocky areas such as small crevices.
At depths ranging from 15 to 60 meters, the team discovered eight Eumillipes Persephone millipedes in three drill holes.
Rodriguez described the discovery of the new species as surprising because it occurred so deep beneath the surface. She explained that while some millipedes live in caverns, many others live on the surface and break down organic waste such as leaf litter.
While Eumillipes Persephone shares morphological characteristics with the previous California leg record holder, the genetic study revealed that the two millipede species are only distantly related.
According to Rodriguez, there are more than 2,000 recognized millipede species in Australia, with the real number of species perhaps reaching 4,000.
Rodriguez and her CSIRO colleagues are also investigating the compounds produced by millipedes in Australia, the Guardian reported.
“We’re testing them to see if they have the potential for being antimicrobials against the pathogens that have a lot of antimicrobial resistance .”