Millipedes, those many-legged denizens of the soil surface throughout the world, don’t always get the recognition they deserve. But a new study by Jerome Hui of Chinese University of Hong Kong and colleagues puts them in the spotlight, sequencing and analyzing complete genomes from two very different millipede species. The study, publishing on September 29th in the open-access journal PLOS Biology, provides important insights into arthropod evolution, and highlights the genetic underpinnings of unique features of millipede physiology.
Millipedes and centipedes together comprise the Myriapoda — arthropods with multi-segmented trunks and many legs. Centipedes sport one pair of legs per segment, while millipedes bear two. Despite the apparent numeric implications of their names, different centipede species bear between 30 and 354 legs, and millipedes between 22 and 750. There are about 16,000 species of myriapods, including over 12,000 species of millipedes, but only two myriapod genomes have so far