PARIS, (AFP) – Scientists have discovered the world’s first true centipede, according to a study Thursday, describing a long, slender, segmented creature with 1,306 legs – more than any other animal.
Creepy worm-like creatures with hundreds of legs are commonly referred to as centipedes, a name that roughly translates to “a thousand feet” – but so far none have been found with more than 750.
The record-breaking species was discovered 60 meters underground in a borehole in a mining area in Western Australia and has been nicknamed Persephone Eumillipes.
“The name of the species comes from the Greek mythological goddess of the underworld, Persephone, who was originally from the surface but was taken to the underworld by Hades,” study author Paul Marek told AFP from Virginia Tech University.
The string-like creature is less than a millimeter wide but almost 10 centimeters long and has “a cone-shaped head with huge antennae and a beak for feeding,” according to the study.
It also has no eyes and is colorless, characteristic features of animals that spend their entire lives underground.
“The centipede digs by stretching its stretchy body, making it thinner to accommodate small cracks,” said Marek.
“The many legs propel the body and open up small cracks and crevices. “
Commenting on the results, insect specialist Andre Nel, who was not involved in the research, called the new creature remarkable.
“In insects living in cavities, you usually find elongated legs, rather than elongated bodies,” he told AFP.
He added that the find was a hope for biodiversity, especially in an area that has likely been damaged by mining activity.
“He recolonized the artificial cavities, which is quite encouraging,” Nel said.
He said the so-called micro-cavities are a largely unknown habitat where new species are often discovered.
“There is probably a whole range of animal life to be discovered in the area,” he said.
Centipedes were among the first air-breathing animals on Earth, the study notes, and some extinct species have grown to over two meters in length.
They play a vital role in the ecosystems they inhabit by eating litter and recycling nutrients.
Millipede babies hatch with just four legs, but may continue to develop new segments with new legs into adulthood.