In busy Los Angeles, few people pay attention to what’s under their feet, but a new underground movement has people looking at the subterranean world just below the surface. A team of scientists discovered a new species of millipede crawling just beneath the soil surface in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
These never-before-seen creatures are pale, blind, thin, inch-long burrowers with the ability to produce a silk-like sticky substance, similar to spider silk. Measuring in at 0.5 millimeters wide and 2 1/2 centimeters long, these creatures are about the width of the a thin graphite lead of a mechanical pencil and about as long as a small paperclip.
Despite being so small, they are described as having a gaping toothy mouth and over 480 legs. The species in question is called the Los Angeles Thread Millipede, formally named Illacme socal.
“We hope that this discovery will encourage conservation efforts to protect these unique creatures and their habitats,” said Marek. “The discovery of Illacme socal highlights the importance of research into subterranean fauna.”
The discovery of Illacme socal was made possible by funding from the National Science Foundation. The research team included scientists from Virginia Tech, West Virginia University, and the University of California, Berkeley. The findings were published in the journal ZooKeys.
The team captured a video of the millipede burrowing and moving through small spaces and crevices underground. This is the first-ever video of this species in action and provides insight into the unique behaviors of these fascinating creatures.
This research discovery highlights the importance of habitat preservation efforts to protect the environment and prevent the loss of biodiversity. The millipede was found in two parks in the Los Angeles and Orange counties but almost certainly lived in other parts of the metropolis in the past.
The fact that populations of this species is living in two small well-known areas that are near constant development emphasizes the need for conservation efforts to protect this and other threatened organisms.
Marek PE, Hall CL, Lee C, Bailey J, Berger MC, Kasson MT, Shear W (2023) A new species of Illacme from southern California (Siphonophorida, Siphonorhinidae). ZooKeys 1167: 265-291. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.1167.102537
Press release originally published by Virginia Tech. Republished with permission.