Discovering a unique species of millipede in Los Angeles: nature’s hidden treasures

An entomologist has discovered a species of millipede previously unknown to science in a Los Angeles park. This exciting discovery was made through the use of a highly sensitive microscope, which allowed scientists to study a previously unseen creature. It is a tiny predator that moves with the help of 486 legs. The found millipede was named Illacme socal and is a tiny filamentous invertebrate.

The description of this amazing creature is awe-inspiring to scientists. The millipede has a “toothy head”, typical of predators, and a translucent body with a greenish tint. When moving on the ground, it literally flows, creating an impression of incredible plasticity and grace. Its size does not exceed the size of an ordinary pin, and its thickness is comparable to a thin pencil lead. It is probably because of its small size and unremarkable appearance that this creature has previously gone unnoticed.

The discovery of a new species of millipede reminds us that our world is full of undiscovered creatures. There are approximately 12,000 other millipede species listed in catalogs found around the world. However, it is likely that some of these species are at risk of extinction before we can fully explore and appreciate their important role in the world’s ecosystems.

Derek Hennen, an entomologist at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, notes that this discovery reaffirms the need to preserve green spaces and natural habitats. He says, “These new species are literally right under our feet. The discovery really proves that it’s important to preserve green spaces and natural habitat as much as we can. After all, even in an intensely urbanized environment like Los Angeles, you can still find new species.”

The path to identification and recognition as a new species for the described millipede has been a long and arduous one. The creature was first spotted by naturalists Cedric Lee and James Bailey in April 2018 at Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park, near Lake Forest. They submitted a description of the creature on the iNaturalist app. Years later, Virginia Tech entomologist Paul E. Marek saw this article on the app and decided to look for a similar creature in Los Angeles on his own. He was lucky, and the specimens he found were sent to a lab in Virginia for further study.

DNA sequencing and careful analysis of the millipede’s physical characteristics confirmed that it was indeed a species new to science. This discovery is significant not only from a scientific perspective, but also from a practical one. Studying new species helps to increase our knowledge of biodiversity and ecosystems, and may also be important for developing new methods of pest control and environmental protection.

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