A white millipede named Illacme plenipes is the leggiest creature in the animal kingdom. The millipede snagged the world record with 750 legs.
Live Science reports that the llacme plenipe, which is Latin for “the pinnacle plentiful feet,” is only found in Northern California. And despite having an incredibly 750 legs the millipede is only about an inch long.
Paul Marek, a postdoctoral entomologist at the University of Arizona, said:
“It basically looks like a thread. It has an uninteresting outward appearance, but when we looked at it with SEM (scanning electron microscopy) and compound microscopes, we found a huge, amazingly complex anatomy.”
The 750 legged millipede was first described in 1928 but it was only recently rediscovered. Marek and his colleagues from Hampden-Sydney College and Auburn University rediscovered the millipede in 2006 while combing through a few inches of soil in northern California.
Michael Brewer, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Berkeley, said that the millipede was extremely difficult to find (only 17 specimens were found over a three year period) and is currently being threatened by climate change and human developments in the region.
“We don’t know much about the biology of these organisms, so for them to go extinct before we understand what role they may play in the ecosystem, or even what they could provide to humanity given enough study, would be a huge shame.”
The Illacme Plenipes millipede beat out a related species from Puerto Rico with 742 legs to become the world’s leggiest creature. Scientists believe, however, that there is probably an undiscovered animal in the tropics with more legs.
“The leggiest animal could be in the tropics; we just skimmed the surface of biodiversity there.”