Scientists discover first actual millipede with more than 1,000 legs

The word "millipede" means "thousand feet" but nobody has ever identified a millipede, or any other kind of animal on Earth, with more than 1,000 legs. Now though, researchers have discovered E. persephone, the first millipede that lives up to its name with not just 1,000 legs but rather 1,306 of them. The previous record holder is northern California's Illacme plenipes millipede with 750 legs. From National Geographic:

Many millipede species begin life with just eight legs, but as they shed their skin and add new body segments, or rings, they can keep developing more legs, says study leader Paul Marek, a millipede expert at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

"So there's probably an individual out there with more rings and more legs, and that's kind of hard for me to wrap my mind around," says Marek[…]

So why all the legs? The team suspects they allow E. persephone to walk on eight different planes simultaneously.

"Since it is a subterranean microhabitat with rocks, pebbles, and soil, they're basically winding their way around these obstacles," says Marek, who received funding from the National Science Foundation.

"Part of your body can be upside down. The other part could be pointing downward, the other part could be pointing upwards. And it's all based on winding around this three-dimensional kind of matrix," he says.

"The first true millipede—1306 legs long" (Scientific Reports)

images: Marek, P.E., Buzatto, B.A., Shear, W.A. et al. The first true millipede—1306 legs long. Sci Rep 11, 23126 (2021).