Nature is beautiful.
With Halloween just around the corner, it's appropriate that researchers just published the discovery of a species that takes creepy-crawly to a whole new level. The recently discovered millipede boasts 414 legs, 200 poison glands, and four penises.
The Illacme tobini millipede was discovered in a marble cave somewhere in California's Sequoia National Park back in 2006, but the researchers only found one. The diplopodologists—scientists who study millipedes—that found the creature were hoping to find more specimen before publishing, and kept going back to the caves and surrounding habitats in search of more tobini millipedes, according to a study published in the journal ZooKeys Tuesday.
The paper details how researchers conducted their search, which is pretty much how you might expect to go millipede-hunting: "The undersides of large stones were examined. The bases of decaying logs and leaf litter were also searched."
Unfortunately, no other specimen were discovered, so the researchers decided it was time to document their findings. Tobini doesn't take the title for most legs on a millipede: that belongs to its relative, Illacme plenipes, which has 750. But it's still a fascinating creature, with a mouth that even the researchers describe as "peculiar," that probably adapted to eat fungus in the cave walls. It also has hairs that produce silk and pores all along its body that secrete an unidentified liquid, believed to be poisonous.
"I never would have expected that a second species of the leggiest animal on the planet would be discovered in a cave 150 miles away," Paul Marek, a Virginia Tech entomologist and co-author of the paper, said in a press release.
And I never would have expected to write about a creature with 418 appendages, four of which are penises, but there you go.
Correction: A previous story incorrectly identified the millipede as a centipede.