A tiny millipede stuck in amber has had 99 million years to contemplate its sticky predicament. The itsy insect didn't live to enjoy its 2019 coming-out party as a scientific curiosity, but the rest of us can marvel at the remarkable specimen.
The millipede is trapped in Cretaceous-era amber found in Myanmar. Researchers determined the millipede is the first fossil found from the order Callipodida, but it was strange enough to require a new suborder. It's now called "Burmanopetalum inexpectatum," with the latter word meaning "unexpected" in Latin.
The team created a 3D model of the 0.3-inch (8.2-millimeter) millipede to more closely study its anatomy.
"With the next-generation micro-computer tomography (micro-CT) and the associated image rendering and processing software, we are now able to reconstruct the whole animal and observe the tiniest morphological traits which are rarely preserved in fossils," said zoologist Pavel Stoev of the National Museum of Natural History in Bulgaria.
3D X-ray microscopy was used to get a better look at the find, including its internal structure. This was made possible due to its amber tomb that helped it retain fine details not usually preserved in fossils. This particular piece of amber that trapped Burmanopetalum inexpectatum is part of a private collection – the largest of its kind in Europe – belonging to Patrick Müller, which comprises 400 amber stones, all of which have been made available to the scientists.
Millipedes belong to the class Diplopoda, Latin for "double foot." The name refers to the two pairs of legs on on each body segments, in contrast to centipedes (class Chilopoda) which have just one pair per segment.
The study describing Burmanopetalum inexpectatum is published in the open access journal ZooKeys, and a render of the millipede captured using 3D X-ray microscopy can be seen in the video below.