The leggiest animal in the world lives in northern California, on the outskirts of Silicon Valley.The bizarre creature is the millipede Illacme plenipes. Males have around 550 legs, but females can have up to 750 legs! Most millipedes, by the way, have between 80 and 100 legs.
First spotted in 1928, the Illacme plenipes was thought to be extinct until entomologist Paul Marek from the University of Arizona dug up one of the wiggly critters at the end of 2005. He reported his findings in the June 2006 issue of Nature.
The re-discovery was amazing because the millipede only lives in a very small area in San Benito County, California. Its limited habitat covers just 4.5 square kilometers of mossy oak forest, or 823 football fields, writes LiveScience.
The species is so rare that only 17 specimens were found during Marek’s three-year search. Researchers think there could more, but stopped their hunt in 2007 because they didn’t want to deplete the species.
Scientists have since been studying the elusive animal and published the most detailed study yet of the millipede on Wednesday, Nov. 14, in the journal ZooKeys.
TGDaily’s Flora Malein outlines some of the new insights:
The millipede has a jagged and scaly translucent exoskeleton, covered with body hairs that produce silk. It also has no eyes, relying instead on a large pair of antennae to navigate its way through the dark. Another bizarre feature is its mouth; unlike other millipedes which chew on food by grinding their mouthparts, lllacme plenipes’s mouth is undeveloped and fused into structures that are probably used for piercing and sucking plant or fungal tissues.
The millipede is about 3 centimeters long (a little over an inch) or slightly bigger than a hairpin.
Take a look at the leggy animal in the video below:
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