Newly discovered centipede Nannaria Hokie lives at Virginia Tech – sciencedaily

Hearing the words “new species discovered” can conjure up images of deep caves, unexplored rainforests or oases hidden in the desert.

But the reality is that thousands of new species are discovered every year by enterprising scientists around the world. Many of these new species come from exotic places, but more surprisingly, many come just down the road, including the newest member of the Hokie Nation, the centipede Nannaria hokie.

The newest Hokie – which is about 60 legs longer than the HokieBird – was discovered alive under rocks near the Duck Pond behind the grove on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus. Since then, the creature has been found in the area commonly known as the stadium woods and in the town of Blacksburg as well.

“It’s not every day that we find new species, let alone on our campus, so we wanted to name the new species for the Virginia Tech community and emphasize the importance of conserving native habitat in the area. region, ”said Paul Marek, a system and associate professor of taxonomy in the Virginia Tech Department of Entomology at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Nannaria hokie (pronounced nan-aria ho-key) is about 2 centimeters long and a dark reddish centipede with yellow-white highlights (apologies to those who thought it would be brown and orange). These creatures are about the size of a penny and usually find their home under rocks, leaves, and other forest floor debris. The common name “Twisted Hokie-Centipede Claw” comes from the presence of twisted claws on their feet in front of their reproductive organs.

The biodiversity of centipedes is the primary focus of Marek’s lab, which studies habitats around the world, including Vietnam, Japan, and the United States. Marek, Jackson Means, a recent entomology graduate, and other co-authors recently published an article in the journal Systematics and diversity of insects, which describes 10 new species of centipedes, including the twisted-clawed centipede Hokie, which was found just a stone’s throw from Marek’s lab window.

The announcement of these new species is a testament to the biodiversity that remains to be discovered, not only in faraway exotic places, but in your garden.

“Millipedes are surprisingly abundant and diverse, but have so far avoided major attention from the scientific community and the public,” Jackson said. “I guarantee that if you go out into a forest near you and start looking under the leaves, you will find several species of centipedes, some of which will likely be large and colorful.

Centipedes are a unique group of arthropods that are characterized by the presence of two pairs of articulated legs on most segments of their body. To anyone who has turned a rock in the earth, the shiny exoskeleton of these types of arthropods should be familiar. These creatures possess an incredible amount of biodiversity and have many fascinating and unique traits; some are brightly colored, others glow in the dark, and some may even exude cyanide in self-defense. Most centipedes are known as scavengers, or decomposers, and feed on decaying plant material on forest soils.

Including the Hokie centipede, the post details nine other centipedes, all from the Appalachian forests. As the scientists who discovered these arthropods, Marek’s lab has had the honor of naming these new species, including references to former Virginia Tech student and arachnologist Jason Bond (Appalachioria bondi), to the former Ellen Brown (Appalachioria brownae) and even to another named after Marek’s wife. Charity (Rudiloria charityae). He named this centipede after his wife after finding it while taking a quick family walk before their wedding by the Chagrin River where he grew up in northeast Ohio.

Centipedes have been around much longer than humans and represent some of the earliest land animals discovered by scientists in the fossil record. Their role as scavengers is crucial for forest ecosystems, and the main role of centipedes in this environment is to break down plant matter into smaller material, so that bacteria and other smaller organisms can continue to recycle it. material in the soil and make its nutrients available. for future generations of life.

Despite an ancient lineage and an abundant food source, the threat of extinction is very real for many species of centipedes. Centipedes generally remain confined to certain relatively small geographic regions, due to their limited mobility and reliance on specific habitats. As such, climate change and habitat destruction pose a serious threat to the survival of these organisms.

“Appalachian forests are important carbon sinks, providing habitat for various species occupying many trophic levels. Deforestation and habitat loss threaten this biodiversity,” said Marek. “Many of the Appalachian invertebrates, which constitute the most diverse component of this fauna, are unknown to science, and without immediate taxonomic attention the species can be irreparably lost. The motivation of my laboratory is to preserve biodiversity. understanding of the biology of organisms, appreciation of nature and its immense ecological value. “

Discovering and preserving these new species and their habitat is the noble goal of researchers and scientists at Virginia Tech who seek to understand the crucial role these often overlooked creatures play in their environment. Studying the different types of centipedes around the world could have a number of implications for understanding the evolution, adaptation, and interdependence within an ecosystem.

The research was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation Advancing Revisionary Taxonomy and Systematics.