|This photo released by the Department of Biology, East Carolina University, shows the dorsal side of a rare female millipede with 662 legs. (Xinhua photo)|
Eight decades after it was thought to have become extinct, U.S. scientists recently reported the rediscovery of the world's leggiest species -- a millipede that has up to 750 legs -- in California, said Thursday's issue of Nature.
This millipede has more than 600 legs, about twice the average millipede -- despite the name which means "thousand-legged." Of the estimated 10,000 species, only one, Illacme plenipes, comes close to living up to its name and thrives only in California.
I. plenipes, Latin for "the acme of plentiful feet," was first spotted in 1926 in San Benito County, about 120 miles southeast of San Francisco, by a government scientist who counted up to a record 750 legs.
But it wasn't seen again despite decades of searching by many scientists. Until last fall, a 28-year-old scientist from East Carolina University, Paul Marek, and his brother chanced upon it while exploring a lush valley of oak trees in San Benito County.
"I practically fell over when I found it. It was extremely exhilarating," said Marek.
Millipedes thrive around the world in temperate and tropical zones. They feed on plant material and tend to hide under moist soil, wood piles and rocks.