A Sierra Millipede by the Numbers
Researchers have discovered a new millipede with 414 legs, 200 poison glands, 100 body segments and four penises. (Just a bit creepy!) Illacme tobini was found in caves in Sequoia National Park and is closely related to Illacme plenipes, who sports 750 gams. “I never would have expected that a second species of the leggiest animal on the planet would be discovered in a cave 150 miles away,” says Paul Marek, an author on the new paper describing the discovery. The leggier of the two millipedes lives under giant sandstone boulders outside of San Juan Bautista, California. Maybe I. tobini makes up for its 300-plus fewer legs with those male organs, which are actually four legs that are modified into penises. The arthropod is also eyeless and has bizarre-looking mouthparts of a mysterious function. Found my Halloween costume!
Tiny, Parasitic Crabs
As we wrote here a few weeks ago, sometimes scientists find new species within known species. Serenotheres janus, a very small crab the size of a pea, was discovered in the Solomon Islands inside of a large date mussel (Leiosolenus obesus). Pea crabs are known as kleptoparasites—they live inside a shellfish host and eat the food it filters. This doesn’t generally harm the host, unless there isn’t enough food to go around—after all, the crab eats first! Serenotheres janus gets its name from Janus, the Roman two-faced god, because of a large additional plate covering the crab’s upper carapace that gives it the illusion of having two faces. The new crab is published in the open access journal ZooKeys.
A New Bumblebee
The first new species of bumblebee in North America in 90 years was published this past summer. Bombus kluanensis was discovered in a 2012 pollinator survey of Denali National Park. Specimens from the Saint Elias Mountains in Yukon, Canada, also were found to belong to the new species. With bees in trouble worldwide, a new find like this one is critical to understanding bee populations. In fact, according to the park’s website, “Denali’s diversity of bees and flower flies provides critical pollination services to plants and thereby maintains healthy plant communities and functioning ecosystems.” More information about pollinators in Denali is available here, and the New York Times recently posted an engaging, in-depth look at bees in the Arctic and the (UC Riverside) scientists who study them.
Image: Zachariah Kobrinsky and David Liittschwager