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The Bravest Little Millipede's Historical Landing


Kathi writes about fossils and other earthly subjects, plus the natural history of Michigan, poetry, and more.

Millipede Trace Fossil





I'd like to share some amazing Paleozoic creatures with you based on several samples from my fossil collection, but in a nontraditional way; in short story form. As I wrote the story with the purpose to inform and inspire, it evolved into something more meaningful that everyone can determine for themselves. I hope you enjoy the story as much as I have enjoyed writing it!

The Story

There once was a little millipede who was the bravest of all. He lived during an amazing time period on Earth best known for its explosion of life . . . The Devonian. It was so full of new life, it has been called the Age of Fish, Age of Forests, Age of Vertebrates and Age of Amphibians, to name a few. The story begins, if you can imagine, over 400 million years ago. Nevertheless, there is much we can learn from the bravest little millipede.

One day, the bravest little millipede was fed up with attacks imposed upon him and his species by the many varieties of ancient deep-sea predators sharing his beloved habitat. To you and me, his enemies would be fascinating creatures to simply observe. But because of his meager size, to him, they were beasts. Day after day, the sadness he felt became overwhelming as he observed his millimates being taken down by their foes. Whenever it happened, he was left feeling helpless only able to scamper under the sandy seafloor with the use of his hundred some legs.

The most frightening threat came from the clamping claws of the eurypterid sea scorpions. They were the millipedes worst enemy and most ill-tempered. In his mind, it was a cruel twist of nature to be betrayed by a cousin arthropod, creatures like him with segmented bodies and jointed legs.

Sea Scorpions

Credit: Patrick Lynch / Yale University

Credit: Patrick Lynch / Yale University

Even the arthropod trilobites unjustly preyed upon them. Though most were gentle creatures, a few species adapted predator skills, like that of raptor birds obtaining speed and sharp vision. The harmless millipedes were defenseless against those types. All the ancient sea-beings referred to those trilobites as "lens-faces". Their eyes possessed multiple lenses which wrapped around their heads for panoramic vision, even while swimming upside down. If a threatening trilobite spotted an unsuspecting millipede, it seldom had ample time to escape. The millipedes were the simplest seafloor dwellers. They spent much of their day milling around on the seafloor feeding on decayed matter. They were at the bottom of the food chain and rarely a threat to others. Some of the trilobites occupied the same ocean parallel and competed with them for food and territory.






Yet another more random threat came from the cephalopods. They possessed large powerful tentacles and had the biggest brains of all ocean creatures. First, there were the cephalopod nautiloids such as Orthoceras with their long straight shells. They could crush the hard exoskeleton shells of most other sea creatures and could pluck just about anything into its grip with amazing accuracy. No animal was safe from them so long as it was within their grasp.

Cephalopod Nautiloids "Orthoceras"

Cephalopod Nautiloid Fossil "Orthoceras"

Cephalopod Nautiloid Fossil "Orthoceras"

Cephalopod Nautiloid Drawing of "Orthoceras"

Cephalopod Nautiloid Drawing of "Orthoceras"

Later, their cousin cephalopod ammonites came along. They had adapted a coiled shell and eventually dominated the ancient seas over their straight-shelled relatives. From the little millipede’s perspective, they were all a nasty sort. From a human's perspective, their fossil shells are most intriguing. They possess inner chambers of beautiful patterns and are even worn as jewelry with symbolic meaning.

Cephalopod Ammonites

Cephalopod Ammonite Fossil "Dufrenoy Justinae"

Cephalopod Ammonite Fossil "Dufrenoy Justinae"

Cephalopod Ammonite Drawing "Dufrenoy Justinae"

Cephalopod Ammonite Drawing "Dufrenoy Justinae"

All the bravest little millipede ever wanted to do was to carry out his role in the marine ecosystem alongside with his millimates. They did a good job of keeping the ocean floors clean. With the arrival of more and more newcomer organisms in the ancient ocean, he believed his kind would soon be extinguished unless something changed.

The bravest little millipede had never known of anything else than his marine world filled with other invertebrate creatures, which lack a backbone. That was until the day the vertebrates showed up. The vertebrates were swift and agile, but worst of all, they were hungry for millipedes. Arriving first were the ostracoderm fish with sleek, slippery bodies possessing heavy armored plates layered over their upper torsos. The magnificent placoderms evolved thereafter. They wore interesting patterned, armored plates and a wide variation of lavish fins and spikes for added protection. Not only were they a marvel of nature, they were awesome predators as well. Unlike the ostracoderms, they had adapted jawbones and blades for teeth, some reaching impressive sizes. Dunkleoteus was the T-Rex of the Devonian seas. They were an ornery bunch and the top predators with the ability to chomp down on any living creature in their time!

First Fish Ostracoderm and Placoderms



Dunkleoteus Placoderm

Dunkleoteus Placoderm

The little millipede was beside himself and searched deep inside his soul for a solution to his species' problem. He consulted with his millimates one by one. He arranged for a millisummit meeting of the milliminds. They brainstormed and discussed and debated for hours on end until finally they all agreed on a split decision. The majority of the million millipedes would remain in the ocean trenches and protect one another by using the millibuddy system. That was the beginning of millimarriages. The bravest little millipede was to lead a group out from the ocean waters and become the first creatures to ever explore land. Such a prospect was unheard of, but the bravest little millipede was no ordinary creature. Instinctively, his followers believed in his bravery and intelligence.

The day finally arrived for them to venture out from their beloved water world. The wise little millipede chose a location offshore which curved inland into a cool calm lagoon. It passed beyond the foamy breakwaters of the Rheic Ocean bordering the great continent of Gondwana. The bravest little millipede was the first one to pop out from the water surface and gaze his eyes upon the Devonian landscape. He took in his first breath of air, adapting the use of his special tube openings. The air was untarnished and crisp, with an aroma of prolific leaves mixed with a marvelous scent of decaying organic material. It wet his appetite briefly until his eyes were steered higher and higher along the trunk of an Archeopteris tree. Through the treetop canopy, he witnessed a light more powerful and brighter than he ever knew possible. He was captured momentarily by the shimmering streaks of light filtering through the branches and it gave him a comforting feeling he had chosen the right place to start a new life for him and his millimates.

The bravest little millipede snapped out of his daze and focused on his mission to crawl out of the water and onto the shore. He proceeded to lead the millitroop's first steps onto dry land. To their surprise, the ground was quite moist from the hothouse climate which recycled warm moist air on a continual basis and dripped it back to Earth. None of the millitroops knew quite what to expect from this new habitat. They all scurried into the underbrush for protection; all but the bravest one. He had set his sights up above, fascinated by the giant trees, some of which reached thirty meters into the sky. Archeopteris trees dominated the forest and provided shade that protected the pioneer millipedes from the heat and intense ultraviolet rays of the sun. Other midsize trees such as Medullosa and Psaronius sealed the shady environment.

Ancient Trees









Ancient lycopod trees hovered near water pools. The millipedes had stepped into Earth's first forest thick with frond trees, wispy shrubs, spreading mosses, ferns and spiny herbaceous plants. It provided plenty of decaying nourishment for all the millipedes to eat and eat and eat. The bravest little millipede and his millimates did just that and grew big and strong. The efforts and risks they had taken rewarded them with the happy life they so desperately sought.

Lycopod Scale Trees

Trace Fossil Leaves of Scale Trees

Trace Fossil Leaves of Scale Trees

Lycopod Scale Tree "Lepidodendron" Drawing

Lycopod Scale Tree "Lepidodendron" Drawing

Lycopod Scale Tree "Sigillarias" Drawing

Lycopod Scale Tree "Sigillarias" Drawing

One day, the bravest millipede looked up again at the light shining through the forest trees. His curiosity to know where it came from led him on another exploration. He decided to crawl up the bumpy trunk of an Archeopteris tree to get closer to the light. Inch my inch he crept, gripping the coarse wood with his numerous legs. When he finally reached the top, he never felt so alive. He thought the sky was the color of love while the light source made his heart beat with trepidation. As he looked down and out, the sprawl of the forest canopy mirrored the excitement in his soul. He was glad he made the strenuous crawl up the giant tree and came to understand its lure.

Days past by, weeks and months; life was good for him and his millimates. There was plenty of oxygen in the air, plenty of nourishment on the ground and the absence of predators was the bonus they all had longed for. Everyday of his life he climbed his favorite tree to thank the powers that be. What began as the bravest little millipede’s original thoughts turned into words that transformed into action which ultimately created a new life for him and his kind! Ironically, of all the creatures that threatened his species very existence; his has survived the longest!

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© 2010 Kathi


Greensleeves Hubs from Essex, UK on October 25, 2015:

Well this must be the best biography of a fossil millipede ever! :) Glad it ended as it did, as the millipede is still here today and all those others who preyed upon it have gone. What's more of course the millipedes had their own spell of greatness - growing to huge size 300 million years ago!

I am envious of your fossils Kathi, and I am glad to see this story has received the accolades it has from other writers. Best wishes, Alun

Kathi (author) from Saugatuck Michigan on April 10, 2011:

Hello W.R., Thank you for the kind compliment. You're funny!

W.R. Shinn on April 09, 2011:

Awesome! Thanks. Is our world that old? Wow! Sincerely, W.

Kathi (author) from Saugatuck Michigan on March 18, 2011:

Oh thank you, that's a great compliment. I'm thinking about modifying it for a children's book! Bless you

Catherine Tally from Los Angeles on March 18, 2011:


I loved this! The combination of the fossils, the drawings, and the engaging story of the struggle for survival was just awesome! I wish I'd had this to read to my daughter when she was younger.

Kathi (author) from Saugatuck Michigan on March 17, 2011:

Hi Jackie, Very nice to meet you! I'm sorry to learn of your brother's death. Wonder whatever happened to his collection? I love that kind of stuff! I'll be seeing you and look forward to reading your hubs! Smiles

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on March 17, 2011:

This was great and my oldest brother who passed away years ago that I am now older than, found things like these but he was mostly into the arrowhead and Indian things I have two or three and his were suppose to go to a museum after his death but I heard no more about them, but there was many, he did it for years, and reading your profile it seems we both were looking for escape coming here and found much more. I will be so interested to follow you and see all the wonderful things you have to say.


Kathi (author) from Saugatuck Michigan on March 08, 2011:

Hi Chatkath, My name is Kathi too and when I was a little girl I begged my mother for a Chatty Cathy doll for Christmas and Birthdays, but never got her. Now I make her pay for it, isn't that horrible of me? lol, I see Colin is up to his match making again. Anybody he sends my way I trust has quality, character and, of course, something interesting to share. Nice to meet you. I can't wait to read your hubs too!

Kathy from California on March 07, 2011:

I am impressed fossillady! Colin said that I would be! Can't wait to visit the rest of your hubs! Thank you for sharing such awesome stuff.

Kathi (author) from Saugatuck Michigan on February 23, 2011:

well welcome to the hub sue, thanks for following me, i'll do the same for you and cant's wait to read your articles. thank you for the kind compliment ps thinking of editing millipede story more kid friendly for publishing! wish me luck

suegillespie on February 23, 2011:

OMG.....you are a very talented lady. I am now enthralled with your sites. I am now a follower! (PS. I am ALSO a teacher....new at "hubbing".....still learning.)

Kathi (author) from Saugatuck Michigan on January 20, 2011:

nicomp, Good question, many animals have adaptive gills for breathing in and out of water, the horseshoe crab is one example. Thanks for stopping by!

nicomp really from Ohio, USA on January 19, 2011:

How did the little guy go from breathing water to breathing air?

This is a tiny point, but I do want to make it: adding the penny to the fossil photos is a great touch. The scale of fossils is often very difficult to grasp. Thanks for that!

Kathi (author) from Saugatuck Michigan on January 15, 2011:

Yes, the fossil history sometimes drives my spirit into action! Glad we share an interest!

Augustine A Zavala from Texas on January 15, 2011:

Fascinating hub! Fossil history is fascinating. Thanks again for sharing.

Kathi (author) from Saugatuck Michigan on December 21, 2010:

Thank you Damian and Vanocouver Gal! It was my pleasure!

damian0000 on December 21, 2010:


What a really beautifl hub!

If only there were more teachers like you --- there is a lot of love in this work and it is written in such an engaging but still informative way, i loved the pictures as well --- excellent work Fossillady :-)

VancouverGal from Canada on December 21, 2010:

This hub is such a delight!

Kathi (author) from Saugatuck Michigan on December 20, 2010:

What can one say but that I am humbled by your top ten list! Oh, I know, I love you for that!

epigramman on December 20, 2010:

...a hub subject like this deserves a famous epigramman top ten


10. impressive

9. novel

8. ingenious

7. original

6. whimsical

5. enthralling

4. could delight the child in all of us

3. but also educate the adult mind too

2. this could be the basis for a children's book

1. unique translation of a subject perhaps not known by too many people - and that makes you a creative anomaly!!!!!

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