February 21st, 2015
This millipede, Illacme plenipes, has 750 legs. Translated from the Latin, its name literally means “the pinnacle of plenty feet.” The extra thrust provided by so many legs allows the millipede to burrow underground for food or to quickly escape from predators. Important qualities for an organism who only resides in California’s competitive Silicon Valley.
Illacme plenipes resides in the large ‘arkose’ sandstone boulder in the northwestern foothills of the Gabilan Range near California’s Central Coast. Only 17 specimens have ever been collected for further study.
“This relict species is the only representative of its family in the Western Hemisphere. Its closest presumed relative, Nematozonium filum, lives in South Africa and this early relationship was established more than 200 million years ago when the continents coalesced in the landmass Pangaea,” reported lead author Dr. Paul Marek.
Mathematically speaking, the creature fails to live entirely up to its name. The prefix milli indicates a factor of one thousand, making this millipede roughly 250 legs short.
Source: Marek PE, & Bond JE (2006). ‘Biodiversity hotspots: rediscovery of the world’s leggiest animal.’ Nature, 441 (7094) PMID: 16760967