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Nice legs! The world’s leggiest animal is rediscovered.

Matthew Chatfield

Last seen in 1928, the colobognath millipede Illacme plenipes is thought to have more legs than any other animal on earth – one female was found with 750 legs, while the males are thought to have a maximum of 562. Despite its legginess the species is actually quite small, even relative to other millipedes. Females grow to just over an inch long; males are slightly smaller. Now scientists from the University of Arizona have rediscovered this elusive beast, and here’s a video of it.

Like many other colobognath millipedes I. plenipes often occur in dark, underground habitats, and are rarely seen or studied. The scientists working on the finding say, rather cheekily “Despite their interesting biological and life history characteristics and a relictual distribution pattern, the group has been deemed a “taxonomist’s nightmare” and is among the least popular taxa in Diplopoda”. I’d like to know what some of the other candidates for that hard-fought award must have been.

The millipede was rediscovered in November 2005, almost eighty years after it was last seen. The finder was Paul Marek, a Ph.D. student at East Carolina University, who was conducting research on millipede systematics and evolution.

Link to research paper

A picture of a female Illacme plenipes millipede.

BBC interview with Paul Marek

Matthew Chatfield

Uncooperative crusty. Unofficial Isle of Wight cultural ambassador. Conservation, countryside and the environment, with extra stuff about spiders.

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