Scientists have discovered a bizarre threadlike millipede with over 400 legs in the unexplored dark marble caves in the United States, which may be an evolutionary cousin of the leggiest creature on the planet.
Along with many spiders, pseudoscorpions and flies discovered and catalogued by the cave explorers, the enigmatic millipede was found in the Sequoia National Park in the U.S.
Scientists recognised its significance as evolutionary cousin of the leggiest animal on the planet, Illacme plenipes , which has 750 legs.
It has 414 legs
The new species may possess only 414 legs, yet it has a similar complement of strange anatomical features, including a body armed with 200 poison glands, silk-secreting hairs and 4 penises, researchers said.
Named Illacme tobini after cave biologist Ben Tobin of the National Park Service, the new millipede was discovered by Jean Krejca from Zara Environmental LLC.
“I never would have expected that a second species of the leggiest animal on the planet would be discovered in a cave 150 miles away,” said Paul Marek, Assistant Professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute.
Its closest relative lives under giant sandstone boulders outside of San Juan Bautista, California.
Many baffling features
In addition to the new millipede’s legginess, it also has weird-looking mouthparts of a mysterious function, four legs that are modified into penises, a body covered in long silk-secreting hairs, and paired nozzles on each of its over 100 segments that squirt a defence chemical of an unknown nature.
Researchers said that by exploring the world and documenting the “biodiversity of this planet we can prevent anonymous extinction, a process in which a species goes extinct before we know of its role in the ecosystem, potential benefit to humanity, or its beauty.”
The study was published in the journal ZooKeys .