- Discovery of these six new species in China bumps the total number of known dragon millipede species to 41, of which about half are found in China, the authors write.
- The six new species of dragon millipedes have “unusually” long legs and antennae, scientists say.
- Unlike the more popular “shocking pink dragon millipede” discovered in Thailand in 2007, the newly discovered species are not vividly colored.
Scientists have now added six new species to the dragon millipede family.
Discovered within caves of two southern Chinese regions of Guangdong and Guangxi Zhuang, scientists say that these critters have “unusually long” legs and antennae, and the typical “dragon-like” spiny projections. Four of the six newly discovered dragon millipedes live exclusively inside caves, according to the new study published in ZooKeys.
Dragon millipedes are part of the Desmoxytes genus found in southeast Asia. Discovery of these six new species in China bumps the total number of known dragon millipede species up to 41, of which about half are found in China, the authors write.
Largely under-researched, these little-known creatures came into limelight in 2007 when the “shocking pink dragon millipede” (Desmoxytes purpurosea) was discovered in Thailand. Collected from a limestone cave, this millipede has a bright pink color that serves as a warning signal for the toxic hydrogen cyanide it produces in its glands.
However, the newly discovered species in China — D. simplipoda, D. laticollis, D. similis, D. spiniterga, D. variabilis, D. phasmoides — lack the vivid warning coloration of the shocking pink dragon millipede.
In fact, as a result of dwelling exclusively in dark caves, two of the species have completely lost their coloration, and appear white or semi-transparent, the authors say. Others are different shades of brown to yellow.
One of the new species, Desmoxytes phasmoides, resembles a stick insect because of its extremely long legs and antennae, the researchers add, the millipede’s name translating to the “stick insect dragon millipede”.
- Liu W, Golovatch S, and Tian M (2016) Six new species of dragon millipedes, genus Desmoxytes Chamberlin, 1923, mostly from caves in China (Diplopoda, Polydesmida, Paradoxosomatidae). Zookeys, 577: 1-24, doi: 10.3897/zookeys.577.7825