The first true centipede: a new species with more than 1000 legs discovered in Western Australia | Animals

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The very first centipede with over 1000 legs was discovered in Western Australia.

The species, which is the first “true” centipede, has 1,306 legs and has been found up to 60 meters underground in a mining area in the Eastern Goldfields region of WA.

The researchers named the new species Eumilipes persephone, in reference to the Greek goddess of the underworld, Persephone.

It breaks the previous record set by Illacme plenipi, which is found in central California and has up to 750 legs.

Dr Bruno Buzatto, biologist at Bennelongia Environmental Consultants, discovered the centipede during an impact study on the underground environment. He described the find as “incredibly lucky”.

“These animals were so unique,” ​​said Buzatto. “As soon as I realized how long they last… I realized they must be something completely different.”

The species has a long, wiry body comprising up to 330 segments, with short legs and a cone-shaped head. Like other animals that live in constant darkness, he is blind and pale.

CSIRO research collaborator and insect expert Dr Juanita Rodriguez said the new species likely evolved in length to make it easier to travel underground.

“The longer you have, the more strength you have to propel yourself forward,” she said. The centipede’s more than 300 body segments would also give it greater force of movement in rocky areas such as small crevices, she said.

By comparison, the Portuguese centipede – a common invasive species in Australia typically seen in large numbers after heavy rains – has around 25 segments, Rodriguez said. In 2013, a Portuguese centipede infestation was believed to have been responsible for a train collision in Perth.

In total, the team found eight Eumilipes persephone centipede in three drill holes at depths between 15 and 60 meters.

Rodriguez said it was surprising to find the new species so far underground. While some centipedes live in caves, many are surface dwellers and break down organic matter such as leaf litter, she said.

Little is known about the new species. “Chances are they eat mushrooms,” said Buzatto.

Genetic analysis revealed that although Eumilipes persephone has physical similarities to the previous leg record holder in California, the two species of centipede are only very distant.

There are more than 2,000 known species of centipedes in Australia, Rodriguez said, adding that the actual number of species could reach 4,000.

“Not many people realize… the large proportion of Australia’s biodiversity that is still not described, and therefore also the importance of taxonomists,” said Buzatto. “We are essentially driving species extinction probably faster than we describe them.”

Rodriguez and his colleagues at CSIRO are also studying chemicals produced by Australian centipedes. “We are testing them to see if they have the potential to be antimicrobial against pathogens that have a lot of antimicrobial resistance.”

Centipedes differ from centipedes in that they have two pairs of legs on most segments of the body, whereas centipedes have only one.

The research on the new centipede has been published in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports.

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