Metropolitan millipede: New species of arthropod found in LA

12 Jul 2023

An image of the newly discovered illacme socal millipede. Image: Virginia Tech

The discovery of the LA-based millipede was made by a team of researchers that included scientists from Virginia Tech.

A new species of millipede has been discovered by a team of researchers in Los Angeles.

The new species, known as the Los Angeles Thread Millipede or the more formal illacme socal, was found beneath the soil surface in two parks located in the city and in Orange County. It is believed that the animal “almost certainly” lived in other parts of the city in the past.

Measuring at just 0.5mm wide and 2.5cm long, the burrowing creature is also pale and blind, and reportedly has the ability to produce a silk-like sticky substance similar to spider silk. The millipede is also described as having a “gaping toothy mouth” and more than 480 legs.

Millipedes are classed as arthropods, meaning they are an invertebrate animal with segmented bodies and jointed appendages.

The research team involved in the discovery included scientists from Virginia Tech, West Virginia University and the University of California, Berkeley. The findings were published in the journal ZooKeys.

Paul Marek, associate professor in the Department of Entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech and lead author of the study that described the millipede, said that he hopes the discovery will encourage conservation efforts to protect the creatures and their habitats.

“The discovery of illacme socal highlights the importance of research into subterranean fauna,” he said.

The study also noted that the species is “threatened by encroaching human settlement and habitat loss”.

Researchers believe that this discovery highlights the importance of preservation efforts to prevent the loss of biodiversity, as the creature was discovered in two well-known parks that are near “constant development”.

Last month, a type of reptile that had not been sighted in the wild in more than 50 years was located in Victoria, Australia, further highlighting the importance of conservation efforts.

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Colin Ryan is a copywriter/copyeditor at Silicon Republic