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It's Official: With 1306 Legs, This Millipede Has the Most of Any Animal

Jake Rossen
Eumillipes persephone has legs and knows how to use them.
Eumillipes persephone has legs and knows how to use them. / "The first true millipede—1,306 legs long," Paul E. Marek, Bruno A. Buzatto, William A. Shear, Jackson C. Means, Dennis G. Black, Mark S. Harvey, Juanita Rodriguez, Scientific Reports
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If scampering invertebrates give you pause, read no further. Everyone else—meet Eumillipes persephone, a newly discovered species of millipede with an astounding 1306 legs.

The appendage-heavy creature was found roughly 200 feet below ground in an exploratory mining operation in—where else—Australia. At 3.5 inches long and just four-hundredths of an inch wide, it has more legs than any other known animal.

A ventral view of the legs of a male Eumillipes persephone.
A ventral view of the legs of a male Eumillipes persephone. / "The first true millipede—1,306 legs long," Paul E. Marek, Bruno A. Buzatto, William A. Shear, Jackson C. Means, Dennis G. Black, Mark S. Harvey, Juanita Rodriguez, Scientific Reports.

The finding, which was published in Scientific Reports, notes that this might be our first discovery of a true millipede—the name means “thousand feet,” but no species had ever been seen sporting that many legs. A typical millipede has 100 to 200; a centipede, close to 400.

“In my opinion this is a stunning animal, a marvel of evolution,” Bruno Buzatto, study co-author and principal biologist at Bennelongia Environmental Consultants in Perth, Australia, told Reuters. “It represents the most extreme elongation found to date in millipedes, which were the first animals to conquer land. And this species in particular managed to adapt to living tens of meters deep in the soil, in an arid and harsh landscape where it is very hard to find any millipedes surviving in the surface.”

Having so many legs has likely been a benefit for Eumillipes persephone, which can use its propulsive force to burrow deeper and into more narrow areas of soil.

A dorsal view of head and ventral view of gonopods of a male Eumillipes persephone.
A dorsal view of head and ventral view of gonopods of a male Eumillipes persephone. / "The first true millipede—1,306 legs long," Paul E. Marek, Bruno A. Buzatto, William A. Shear, Jackson C. Means, Dennis G. Black, Mark S. Harvey, Juanita Rodriguez, Scientific Reports.

Four of the millipedes were found, none alive, and only one had 1306 legs. Others had 998 or fewer. The numbers of legs aren’t uniform, researchers say, because they add and shed four-legged segments through life as they molt. The older a millipede is, the more legs it’s likely to have. In theory, a millipede specimen with even more legs might be lurking somewhere.

[h/t Reuters]

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