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Image Gallery: The Leggiest Millipede

Millipede Mouth

a white millipede with 750 legs.

(Image credit: Paul Marek)

The millipede wowed researchers with its unusually complex build that was tucked into such a tiny package — it measures 0.4-1.2 inches (1-3 centimeters) long. Shown here, view of the head and mouthpart showing a triangular tooth-lined orifice (arrow).

Weird Head

a white millipede with 750 legs.

(Image credit: Paul Marek)

Shown here, a scanning electron micrograph of the tips of the bizarre millipede's antennae and head, with toothed structures projecting from its mouthpart (arrow).

Teensy Tiny

a white millipede with 750 legs.

(Image credit: Paul Marek)

A white millipede named lllacme plenipes (Latin for "the pinnacle plentiful feet") and found only in a small area of Northern California sports 750 wiggling legs, making it the "leggiest" animal known. (Here, the entire millipede with penny for scale.)

Creature Comforts

a white millipede with 750 legs.

(Image credit: Paul Marek)

The millipedes are limited to a patch of grassy oak woodlands spanning about 1.7 square miles (4.5 square kilometers), or 823 football fields, near Oakland and Berkeley.

Wiggle Worm?

a white millipede with 750 legs.

(Image credit: Paul Marek)

Scientists crowned the species as the leggiest in the animal kingdom (some of its wiggling limbs shown here), beating out a related species in Puerto Rico with 742 legs.

Rare Specimen

a white millipede with 750 legs.

(Image credit: Paul Marek)

Over three years, researchers found a total of 17 specimens of the white millipede in various life-cycle stages. Successful hunts required two researchers to examine an area for an hour before finding a single specimen. (Shown here, Illacme plenipes female with 170 segments and 662 legs. Scale bar 1 mm.)

Tiny But Complex

a white millipede with 750 legs.

(Image credit: Paul Marek)

Millipedes like this one (lllacme plenipes) are second to earthworms in their ability to break down dead plant matter, giving bacteria and fungi a chance to consume those organic materials.

Oddities

a white millipede with 750 legs.

(Image credit: Paul Marek)

A rudimentary fused mouth with no known function is among the millipede's oddities, as are hairs on its back that produce a silklike product. "There was this huge amount of neat detail that we're just scraping the surface of," Marek said.

Live Science Staff
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