The newly named Eumillipes persephone has 1306 legs. Prior to this discovery, no millipede had been found with more than 750 legs.
CSIRO Research Scientist Dr Juanita Rodriguez was one of seven scientists involved in the discovery of the leggiest animal on the planet.
“We’ve been naming millipedes for centuries, but this discovery is particularly exciting because it’s a millipede in the truest sense of the word,” Dr Rodriguez said.
The millipede’s name derives from the Greek word eu- (true), the Latin words mille (thousand) and pes (foot), and references the Greek goddess of the underworld, Persephone.
The scientists found four members of the new species in southern Western Australia, 60 metres underground, and discovered they have long, thread-like bodies consisting of up to 330 segments. They are up to 0.95mm wide and 95.7mm long.
They are eyeless, have short legs, and cone-shaped heads with antennae and a beak.
As part of this discovery, Dr Rodriguez performed the data analysis from the genome of the millipede to determine what other species the Eumillipes persephone was related to.
The work tied into a broader study being conducted by Dr Rodriguez and her colleagues at CSIRO’s Australian National Insect Collection in Canberra.
“We are studying the chemicals that millipedes produce to look for interesting molecules that could be used as potential antimicrobials against highly virulent and antibiotic resistant pathogens,” Dr Rodriguez said.
“This is important because many of these pathogens are resistant to current drugs, and we need new molecules to treat infections like golden staph and pneumonia.”
The discovery of Eumillipes persephone was contributed to by Paul E Marek (Virginia Tech, USA), Bruno Buzatto (Bennelongia Environmental Consultants), William A Shear (Hampden-Sydney College), Jackson C Means (Virginia Tech, USA), Dennis G Black (La Trobe University, Australia), Mark S Harvey (Western Australia Museum) and Juanita Rodriguez (CSIRO’s Australian National Insect Collection).