Millipede Fossil Caught in Amber Reveals a New Callipodida Suborder

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Millipedes are arthropods, meaning they are invertebrates with an exoskeleton, a segmented body, and jointed appendages. Scientifically, they are known as the class Diplopoda. They are ancient creatures, being one of the first and largest invertebrates to walk on land. The oldest fossil, named Pnueumodesmus Newman, has been traced back to 420 million years ago. Their diet consists of dead plants and animals, making them detritivores. Their natural habitat is damp environments and they can be found under mulch, compost, stones, and piles of leaves.

New Callipodida Suborder Discovered

Recently, a new millipede fossil was found in Myanmar. Scientists determined it comes from the Cretaceous era, being around 99 million years old. It matches some of the characteristics of the order Callipodida, but not entirely. The Callipodida order of millipeds still exists, consisting of over 100 different species. Over 500 millipeds specimens were found in the same amber deposit, but only this particular one seemed to belong to the Callipodida order.

The fossil measures 8.2 millimeters and its appearance is quite strange, so biologists created a new suborder for it, called Burmanopetalum inexpectatum.

Virtually Recreating The Specimen

Using the technology of micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) and processing software, researchers were able to create a 3D model of the millipede. Reconstructing the animal gives scientists the chance to observe the specimen’s anatomy more precisely, down to the smallest morphological traits which are rarely preserved in fossils.

Greg Edgecombe, fossil arthropod from the Natural History Museum in London, expressed his opinion on the new arrival of the Burmanopetalum inexpectatum suborder to the collection of millipede fossils. He was glad to have the chance to observe such a unique specimen.

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