Very First Land Creature

Millipede Trail Trace Fossil

Dated 425 million years ago during the Silurian Period, the first animal to show evidence of breathing oxygen was a millipede. Its fossil was discovered by an amateur collector from Scotland in 2004. It exhibited tiny openings, not visible to the eye, taxonomists refer to as spiracles for oxygen intake.

Comparison to Centipedes

Millipedes are detrivores, feeding on decaying plant material, and most of them live in moist habitats. Unlike their cousin centipedes, most are not predators, they don’t bite or have a poison sting. They are slower moving  because their legs may be numerous, but tiny in proportion to the rest of their bodies. Their bodies are rounded and not flat like that of centipedes. Also, centipedes have one leg per body segment, whereas millipedes have two per segment.

North American Type Millipede (photo from Wikipedia)

Although their name suggests that they have thousands of legs, the truth is, they most commonly have between 36 to 400, which is still a lot of legs! This (Narceus, americanus) millipede is a rather large species which grows up to four inches in length. I think its kinda cute. Anyway, the largest millipede today is the Giant African Millipede reaching up to 12 inches in length, but the largest ever discovered in the entire history of millipedes dwarfs the African Millipede. It lived during the Carboniferous Age and scientists estimate it grew two meters long and a meter wide. This age of lush tropical forests must have contributed to its gigantic stature!

Check out my charming, epic short story, The Bravest Millipede who was enlightened after he led his tribe to dry land in order to escape predators of his time, described and illustrated into the plot.

Millipede Trace Fossil (Mold of Segmented Body)


Kingdom:  Animal

Phylum:    Arthopod (having segmented body, exoskeleton, jointed legs)

Class:        Myriapoda (means 10,000 legs)

Subclass:   Diplopoda (having two legs per segment)

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