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Tiny Millipede Species Found In 99-Million-Year-Old Amber

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This ancient millipede was found trapped in amber in Burma. The images show the creature as a whole, as well as in close focus of some of its significant body parts.   ( Stoev, Moritz & Wesener )

A 99-million-year-old amber that was recovered from Myanmar contains a tiny millipede that might be considered a dwarf in its order. Its discovery sheds light into the species’ evolutionary history.

99-Million-Year-Old Amber

Researchers of a new study announced their discovery of a new species of millipede, except this species lived nearly 100 million years ago. The specimen was discovered among the many amber deposits that were recovered from Myanmar, and unlike its other relatives, it is rather minute at 0.3 inches or 8.2 centimeters. In fact, authors say that compared to its modern relatives that can grow up to 10 centimeters, the newly discovered species may be considered a dwarf.

Using 3D modelling and microcomputer-tomography, researchers were able to study the creature and its features more closely, and determined the ways that it is different from its modern day descendants. For instance, it does not have hair-like growths on its back, which is typically a characteristic in the extant species in the Callipodida order, and it also has rather simple eyes, quite unlike its modern millipede relatives with complex eyes.

Burmanopetalum Inexpectatum

As mentioned, the species, now named Burmanopetalum inexpectatum, is from the order Callipodida, but they deemed its features to be strange enough to begin a new sub-order. As a matter of fact, the name inexpectatum was given to it because it means “unexpected.” According to the researchers, this discovery sheds lights into the evolutionary history of the order Callipodida.

Compared to other millipede species that lived during the dinosaur era, it really is quite small. For instance, other species that lived about 315 million years ago, such as millipedes from the genus Arthopleura, could even reach 230 centimeters in length. As such, the B. inexpectatum is believed to be a ground dweller in temperate forests.

That said, while the B. inexpectatum makes history as the first callipodidan in the fossil record, it was only one of the over 500 millipede species found in the amber deposits. In fact, in the last few years of studying the amber, all 16 living orders of millipedes have been identified in it.

The study is published in the journal ZooKeys.

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