Millipede family added to Australian fauna

Aug 30, 2012
This image shows a Nephopyrgodesmus eungella male, one of the newly found species. Credit: Robert Mesibov

An entire group of millipedes previously unknown in Australia has been discovered by a specialist – on museum shelves. Hundreds of tiny specimens of the widespread tropical family Pyrgodesmidae have been found among bulk samples in two museums, showing that native pyrgodesmids are not only widespread in Australia's tropical and subtropical forests, but are also abundant and diverse. The study has been published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

"Most pyrgodesmid species are so small they could be easily overlooked," explained millipede specialist Dr Robert Mesibov, of the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston, Tasmania. "What's interesting is how thoroughly overlooked they've been. We now know there are dozens of of these millipedes in our warm, wet forests, stretching over more than 2000 km on Australia's east coast."

This image shows the top (left) and bottom (right) views of the head end of one of the new pyrgodesmid species. This millipede is only 1.3 mm wide. Credit: Robert Mesibov

Six new species and three new genera of the colorful, curiously sculptured have now been described from Australia, all from the state of Queensland.

"It's a great example of the value of museum collections," said Dr Mesibov. "Scientists from the Queensland Museum and CSIRO Entomology collected bagfuls of in hundreds of places over many years. They extracted bugs in bulk from the fresh litter and took out just the ones they were studying, usually . The remaining bugs are in 'residues' stored in the Queensland Museum and the Australian National Insect Collection."

Dr Mesibov said it's not generally appreciated that zoological specialists find most of their new species in museums. "Sure, biological expeditions to previously unexplored places turn up exciting new species. But there are plenty of surprises waiting when you go rummaging through the residues on museum shelves. In this case, it was a whole family of animals not known from Australia."

Explore further: Endangered clouded leopard kittens born in Miami zoo

More information: Mesibov R (2012) The first native Pyrgodesmidae (Diplopoda, Polydesmida) from Australia. ZooKeys 217: 63. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.217.3809

Related Stories

Millipede border control better than ours

Dec 23, 2011

A mysterious line where two millipede species meet has been mapped in northwest Tasmania, Australia. Both species are common in their respective ranges, but the two millipedes cross very little into each other's ...

Millipede feared extinct is found

Jul 31, 2006

U.S. biologists say Illacme plenipes, a millipede with up to 750 legs that was last seen 80 years ago, has been found in California.

New dolphin species discovered in Australia

Sep 15, 2011

Researchers in Australia have discovered that dolphin colonies living around Melbourne are a species unlike any other in the world, they revealed on Thursday.

Recommended for you

Clues to aging from long-lived lemurs

15 hours ago

When Jonas the lemur died in January, just five months short of his thirtieth birthday, he was the oldest of his kind. A primate called a fat-tailed dwarf lemur, Jonas belonged to a long-lived clan. Dwarf ...

Cats relax to the sound of music

19 hours ago

According to research published today in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery by veterinary clinicians at the University of Lisbon and a clinic in the nearby town of Barreiro in Portugal, music is likew ...

Fruit flies crucial to basic research

21 hours ago

The world around us is full of amazing creatures. My favorite is an animal the size of a pinhead, that can fly and land on the ceiling, that stages an elaborate (if not beautiful) courtship ritual, that can ...

Crete's mystery croc killed by cold snap

21 hours ago

A man-eating crocodile that became an attraction on the Greek island of Crete last year after its mysterious appearance in a lake has died, probably of cold, an official said Monday.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.