486-Legged Millipede Species Found Near Los Angeles
In 2018, while searching for slugs near Los Angeles, naturalists Cedric Lee and James Bailey stumbled upon an unfamiliar creature: a tiny, translucent millipede with 486 legs and an alien-like head. Recognizing its uniqueness, Bailey immediately suspected it was an undescribed species. Excited about their discovery, they posted the find on the citizen science app, iNaturalist. Their observation caught the attention of entomologist Paul E. Marek from Virginia Tech.
Marek, along with his wife, visited Whiting Ranch, where the millipede was found, during Christmas to try and collect some of these creatures. After several days of searching, they managed to find male and female specimens, which they brought back to Marek's lab in Virginia along with some soil.
Through DNA sequencing and detailed examination of the millipedes' structure, Marek confirmed that Lee and Bailey had indeed uncovered a new species. This newly discovered millipede was named the "Los Angeles thread millipede" (Illacme socal) and became only the third species in the Illacme genus. Their findings were published in the journal ZooKeys. With this discovery, there are now approximately 13,000 named millipede species worldwide.
It's important to note that millipedes and centipedes are not insects but rather arthropods, closely related to creatures like lobsters, crayfish, and shrimp. They prefer moist habitats and are more active during the night.