The number of “real” millipedes has crossed the mark for the first time

So far, the record was 750 feet—but now, for the first time, the millipede is really living up to its name: Researchers have discovered a new 1,306-foot-long rep. The record reptile, reaching a length of ten centimeters, remained unknown because it lives deep underground in Australia: it was discovered in wells up to 60 meters deep. Biologists have shown that its many feet apparently enable it to walk precisely through small cracks in the rock.

Thousands of representatives of the so-called Myriapoda roar through various habitats around the world. They all have a surprising number of feet – but most are less than 1,000 feet. The same goes for the previous record holder: California’s Millennium-armed Ellakmé tubes are 750 feet long. But as researchers led by Paul Marek of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg now report, the new runner has already surpassed the number of the same name for the first time.

You find deep in the earth

They discovered the new species in wells that came from a geological survey in a mining area in Western Australia. Scientists have set down special small traps to study organisms underground. They collected a total of eight millipede specimens – five of which came from a depth of about 60 metres. They then recorded the anatomical features of these unusual reptiles by means of microscopic analyzes and also conducted genetic studies so that they could classify them in the Myriapoda relationship system.

On counting, biologists have set a new record: a millipede from the depths of Australia is 1,306 feet high – twice the number of Elakmi Plenips. The new species was given the scientific name Eumillipes persephone. It is derived from the Greek word eu- (true), the Latin words mille (thousand) and pes (foot) and also refers to the Greek goddess of the underworld – Persephone. The largest specimen was 95.7 mm long and 0.95 mm wide. The thread-like body is divided into up to 330 pieces, allowing for tremendous flexibility. As shown by microscopic examinations, Eumillipes persephone is without eyes, has a conical structure on the head and very long antennae.

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skillfully moving at an altitude of 1,306 feet

Outwardly, it is very similar to previous record holder Illacme plenipes, the researchers report. But as their genetic studies show, its link is far-reaching with the California millipede. Rather, it belongs to the group Myriapoda, whose representatives are also found on the surface of the Earth in Australia. However, Eumillipes Persephone clearly differs from them in its adaptation to life in the depths. The researchers explained that the outward similarity to Illacme plenipes is a case of parallel evolution. Because even California with an unusually large number of feet lives underground – but only 11.5 meters deep.

The authors believe that the numerous parts and feet that arose in both species are used to navigate their neatly organized environment. Because these adjustments allow for maximum flexibility and thrust along the length to move through small openings and cracks in the ground. The scientists wrote that the standard characteristics of E. persephone may be due to movement in particularly deep soil microbes. However, the researchers cannot say what exactly the millipede will eat at a depth of 60 meters. It probably feeds on fungal lattices.

It is also still unclear how widespread this species is and whether other representatives of Myriapoda rush through the underground at an altitude of more than a thousand feet somewhere in the world. In the end, the discovery shows that there are still many unknown creatures to be discovered deep in the earth.

those: Scientific Reports, doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-02447-0

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