Ancient millipede walked with dinosaurs, died in a sticky trap

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About 99 million years in the past, a Cretaceous millipede scampered over the forest ground in what’s now Southeast Asia. The arthropod efficiently averted being squished by neighboring dinosaurs, but it surely had the unhealthy fortune to stumble right into a sticky patch of sap, which hardened across the millipede and locked it into an amber tomb.

Whereas that was a horrible end result for the millipede, it was nice information for the scientists who lately found the tiny corpse.

The entombed fossil, of a feminine measuring zero.three inches (eight.2 millimeters) in size, was so well-preserved that its minuscule physique constructions had been retained in distinctive situation. This enabled scientists to determine the tiny arthropod as not solely a beforehand unknown species, however a beforehand unknown suborder as properly, including a department to the millipede household tree. [Fabulous Fossils: Photos of the Earliest Animal Organs]

Utilizing micro-computed X-ray tomography (micro-CT) scans, the scientists constructed a digital 3D mannequin of the millipede, which was curled into an “S” form contained in the lump of amber. The creature had 35 physique rings and totally developed sperm-storing sacs on its underside, which confirmed that the feminine specimen was a mature grownup, the examine authors stated.

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At the moment, millipedes are ample and numerous, with about 11,000 species recognized and as many as 80,000 species estimated to exist worldwide, the researchers stated in a brand new examine. However little is understood about fossil millipedes, and there are solely a handful of consultants worldwide investigating this group, stated lead examine writer Pavel Stoev, a professor of zoology on the Nationwide Museum of Pure Historical past, Sofia in Bulgaria.

Proof within the fossil file reveals that millipedes had been round as early as 315 million to 299 million years in the past, with some rising to just about eight ft (2 meters) in size, Stoev instructed Stay Science in an electronic mail.

“Previous to our examine, there have been solely 4 species of millipedes described from Burmese amber, which is understood to be among the many oldest and richest amber deposits of Cretaceous fauna,” Stoev stated.

Aside from the millipede’s unusually small measurement, a number of clues instructed the scientists that this specimen differed from the three different suborders throughout the Callipodida order. It lacked sure hair-like growths; the form of its rear phase was distinctive, and whereas most callipodidans’ compound eyes include at the least 30 optical models, the little millipede’s eyes held solely 5 — “the bottom restrict identified within the group,” Stoev stated.

The researchers named a brand new suborder, Burmanopetalidea, and dubbed the arthropod Burmanopetalum inexpectatum. The primary a part of that identify references the place the amber got here from — Burma, now Myanmar — whereas “inexpectatum” is Latin for “sudden,” celebrating the shock discovery of a brand new millipede suborder, in keeping with the examine.

The findings had been revealed on-line as we speak (Might 2) within the journal Zookeys.

Initially revealed on Stay Science.

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