Thank goddess for that, last weeks hellish days of persecution not to mention my birthday are now in the past. Last week the lordly Lammergeyer and it's bone crushing antics were in the spotlight. As we descend into December we find a smaller deadlier creature as this weeks focus.
Issue #42 Shocking Pink Dragon Millipede
Kingdom – Animalia
Phylum – Arthropoda
Class – Diplopoda
Order – Poludesmia
Family – Paradoxsomatidae
Genus – Desmoxytes
Species – purpurosea
Related Species -The Shocking Pink Dragon Millipede is one of 31 species found in the genus Desmoxytes (1)
Range - Pink Dragon Millipedes are only found in a single area of forest on the banks of the Mekong River in Thailand
Poisonous in Pink
At a length of 3cm long the Shocking Pink Dragon Millipede is short, although very bulky thanks to the rows of spines on its back, when compared to many other millipede species. Formally cave dwellers the Shocking Pink Millipede navigates by smell and feeds of detritus in the leaf litter. Shocking Pink Millipedes often gather after rain in large groups, for as of yet unknown reason (2).
The spines and bright exoskeleton colours of the millipede are its most interesting features, with both aiding in the creature’s defence. When threatened the Shocking Pink Millipede, like many other species curls up into a coiled disc, with its head facing inwards to protect it from attack. If this fails the millipede secretes Hydrogen Cyanide along the spines and can even fire it at predators for added effect. The concentrations of this deadly chemical are so strong that the millipede has a percent scent of bitter almonds, an obvious olfactory cue alongside its bright colours that it is poisonous.
Because of these deadly defences nothing predates on the Shocking Pink Dragon Millipede, and it can often be found sitting out in the open. Despite this the species wasn’t discovered by science until 2008, with many of its habits, including how it reproduces unknown for the moment.
Five Fun Pink Dragon Millipede Facts
Despite the word Millipede literally meaning a thousand feet the most recorded legs on a species called Illacme plenipes with a total of 750 legs (3)
That said Illacme plenipes is not the longest millipede, that honour goes to the Giant African Millipede (Archispirostreptus gigas) which can reach a length of 40cm
Millipedes were some of the first species to live on land, with the first fossil evidence of one such pioneer dating back 427 million years ago (4)
Recent studies have shown that high concentrations of Hydrogen Cyanide stain a millipedes exoskeleton pink. As such it is suspected that this may be the reason how the Shocking Pink Dragon Millipede became so brightly coloured
Not all Millipedes are brightly coloured. One speciesPsammodesmus bryophorus has a symbiotic relationship with moss species, growing them on its shell as camouflage while transporting the plants spores further than they would be carried by wind through their forest home.
1 - www.arkive.org
2 - Enghoff H, Sutcharit C & Panha S, (2007), The shocking pink dragon millipede, Desmoxytes purpurosea, a colourful new species from Thailand (Diplopoda: Polydesmida: Paradoxosomatidae) Zootaxa 1563: 31–36
3 - Paul E. Marek and Jason E. Bond (2006). "Biodiversity hotspots: rediscovery of the world's leggiest animal". Nature 441
4 -Paul Selden & Helen Read (2008). "The oldest land animals: Silurian millipedes from Scotland". Bulletin of the British Myriapod & Isopod Group 23:
1 - http://takashi1016.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/641291580_j84dk-l.jpg
3 - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/85/Psammodesmus_bryophorus.jpg
And there we have it, natures very own chemical warfare expert not so much scuttles away, as it does wait for us to leave. Next week we pay tribute to a hero of the Fan-Fic section, and the creature it shares it’s namesake with but until then critic, comment and check out Impurest’s Bestiary of Past Issues