The recently-discovered creature was so strange, scientists had to create an entirely new suborder of the species.
Scientists have come across a tiny millipede of around 8.2 millimeters in length, perfectly preserved in Cretaceous-era amber in Myanmar. The Cretaceous era, a period in Earth’s history spanning from approximately 145 million to 66 million years ago, marked the final chapter of the Mesozoic era. This era saw the flourishing of dinosaurs, such as the Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops, and Velociraptor, as they dominated the terrestrial ecosystem.
Additionally, the Cretaceous witnessed the emergence of the first flowering plants, known as angiosperms, which transformed landscapes and provided new food sources for both herbivorous and omnivorous creatures. The era ended dramatically with the mass extinction event, likely caused by a massive asteroid impact, which resulted in the demise of the non-avian dinosaurs and paved the way for the rise of mammals during the subsequent Paleogene period.
Revealing a creature that co-existed with Dinosaurs
Using the latest research technologies, scientists concluded that not only were they handling the first fossil millipede of the order ‘Callipodida,’ and also the smallest among their contemporary relatives, but their morphology was so unusual that it deviated drastically from their contemporary relatives.
Using 3D X-ray microscopy, the scientists could construct a virtual model of the 0.3-inch-long specimen, which allowed them to fully understand its skeleton, unusual internal anatomy, and a healthy abundance of tiny legs.
Millipede Trapped in Amber
The 99-million-year-old millipede was so unusual that scientists were forced to create an entirely new suborder in the current tree of millipede classification, Pavel Stoev, a researcher at Bulgaria’s National Museum of Natural History and the study’s lead author, revealed in a statement. “With the next-generation micro-computer tomography (micro-CT) and the associated image rendering and processing software, we can now reconstruct the whole animal and observe the tiniest morphological traits rarely preserved in fossils,” said Stoev.
Given the surprising revelations made after scientists studied the creature, they named it Burmanopetalum inexpectatum, with the latter word translating into “unexpected” in Latin. “It was a great surprise to us that this animal cannot be placed in the current millipede classification,” Stoev stated.
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