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Posted by Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral
Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of
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on Friday, 16 November 2012
in Mother Nature's Big and Small

Friday Creature Feature: Rare Millipede

The fastest land animal is the cheetah and the largest land animal is the African elephant. Those facts are california millipede pensoftcommonly known and elementary school children can often recite them to you in that rapid- fire wide-eyed way only they possess: but do you want to know a secret? Those kids don’t know everything and here is your chance to trump the precocious encyclopedia at your family’s Thanksgiving table this year with, “Yeah, well what’s the leggiest creature on the planet?”

The leggiest creature in the world is the millipede known as Ilacme plenipes. The rare creature was rediscovered in California seven years ago by Paul Marek, then a 28 year old scientist from East Carolina University.  He spotted it on a trip into an undisclosed oaken valley in San Benito County. Up until then Ilacme plenipes hadn’t been seen since Calvin Coolidge was in office.

In 2006 Marek published his findings about the Ilacme plenipes in the journal Nature.

"I practically fell over when I found it. It was extremely exhilarating," he told the Associated Press. Marek, now with the University of Arizona, must have wanted to revisit that elation because this month he published a redescription of the millipede in an issue of Zookeys.

Ilacme plenipes literally means "in highest fulfillment of feet" and the females can have up to 750 legs and males only have a maximum leg count of 562. Their many many feet allow the insects to burrow underground and cling to the sandstone boulders in the northwestern foothills of the Gabilan Range in San Benito County.

San Benito County is the only place where they are found: “This relict species is the only representative of its family in the Western Hemisphere. Its closest presumed relative, Nematozonium filum, lives in South Africa and this early relationship was established more than 200 million years ago when the continents coalesced in the landmass Pangaea," said Marek.

They have extremely long and narrow bodies, (females are slightly longer than males which makes sense seeing as females have more feet)  light cream in color, and they have a “hirsute vestiture, appearing velvety” which is the fancy way of saying they wear a hairy but soft coat. These body hairs can produce silk.

The millipedes have giant antennae, compared to the rest of its body, that they use to see and feel through the dark because they have no eyes. They don’t have grinding mouthparts for chewing which is a way they differ from other millipedes. Instead they have a mouth that is “rudimentary and fused into structures” that they use to pierce and suck plant or fungal tissues for sustenance: yet another fun fact suitable for dinner time conversation.

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Samina Cabral is a native Southern Californian who now resides on the shores of Lake Erie in Northeast Ohio. Samina and her husband believe that sustainability starts in the home and try to live their lives as simply as possible without compromising comfort.

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1944: Camano Class Light Cargo Ship was laid down for the US Army as FS-289 at Wheeler Shipbuilding in Whitestone, NY.

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1945: Delivered to US Army.

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1950: Acquired by the US Navy on July 1, 1950 and placed in service as USNS New Bedford (T-AKL-17).

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1954: The movie, Mister Roberts, was made on the USNS New Bedford (T-AKL-17).

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1955 - 1963: Used as a cargo supply ship for the Texas Towers, a network of advanced radar stations located off the Eastern Seaboard. In 1957, Capt. Sixto Mangual was commander of the AKL-17 and in 1961 it was rechristened the USNS New Bedford. The New Bedford, sailing out of State Pier, was keeping vigil when Texas Tower No. 4 callapsed off the New Jersey coast during a January 1961 nor'easter.

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1963: Reclassified as Miscellaneous Unclassified (IX-308).

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1971: The New Bedford (IX-308) served as a Torpedo Test Firing Vessel in the Puget Sound area.

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1994: Ceremony in New Bedford.

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1995: The ship was struck from the Naval Register on April 4.

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2004: The Sea Bird's current disposition is a tuna long liner (fishing boat) out of San Diego, CA.

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2006: Design of the Tesla Turbine began on June 11, 2006. The Sea Bird was sold by Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service for commercial service.

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2007: The Sea Bird was drydocked for renovations.

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2008: The Sea Bird setting sail to Sea-Tac in Seattle, WA.

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2009 - 2010: The Sea Bird is currently docked at Seattle Sea-Tac.

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