That’s How it Begins

A team of paleontologists from Bulgaria and Germany has found the surprisingly unusual and perfectly preserved millipede in 99-million-year-old amber from Myanmar.

Burmanopetalum inexpectatum. Image credit: Leif Moritz.

I saw this in a movie once…

Millipedes are a highly diverse but also a largely understudied group of arthropods with over 11,000 known species. The actual number of species is estimated to be between 15,000 and 80,000.

The Mesozoic Era, an interval of geological time from about 252 to 66 million years ago, is poor in millipede fossils, with less than a dozen know species.

Dubbed Burmanopetalum inexpectatum, the newly-discovered millipede species lived approximately 99 million years ago (the Cretaceous period).

The ancient creature, only about 8.2 mm long, is encased in amber from the Hukawng Valley, Kachin State, northern Myanmar.

With the next-generation micro-CT and the associated image rendering and processing software, scientists were able to reconstruct the whole animal and observe the tiniest morphological traits which are rarely preserved in fossils.

It came as a surprise that this animal cannot be placed in the current millipede classification. Even though their general appearance have remained unchanged in the last 100 million years, as the planet has undergone dramatic changes several times during this period, some morphological traits in Callipodida lineage have evolved significantly.

The discovery is described in a paper in the journal ZooKeys.

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