New species of millipede — Nannaria hokie — found at Virginia Tech

New River Valley News

BLACKSBURG, Va. (WFXR) — New species are discovered each year by scientists around the world. However, a new species has been found in Virginia Tech’s backyard.

The newest member of the Hokie Nation, the millipede Nannaria hokie, was discovered living under rocks by the Duck Pond behind the Grove on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus. Since then, the critter has been found around the area commonly referred to as 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 to highlight the importance of conserving native habitat in the region,” said Paul Marek, a systematics and taxonomy associate professor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Entomology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Nannaria hokie (pronounced nan-aria ho-key) is about two centimeters long, and a dark reddish millipede with yellow-white highlights. These creatures are roughly the size of a penny and usually find their home under rocks, leaves, and among other forest floor debris. The common name “Hokie twisted-claw millipede” comes from the presence of twisted claws on their feet before their reproductive organs. 

The announcement of these new species speaks to the biodiversity that has yet to be discovered, not just in far off exotic locations, but in your backyard.

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

Including the Hokie millipede, the publication goes on to detail nine other millipedes, all native to Appalachian forests. As the scientists who discovered these arthropods, the Marek lab had the honor of naming these new species, including references to Virginia Tech alumnus and arachnologist Jason Bond (Appalachioria bondi), alumna Ellen Brown (Appalachioria brownae), and even one named after Marek’s wife Charity (Rudiloria charityae). This millipede he named for his wife after he found it while taking a quick stroll with family before their wedding by the Chagrin River where he grew up in northeastern Ohio.

“The forests of Appalachia are important carbon sinks, providing habitat to diverse species occupying many trophic levels. Deforestation and habitat loss threaten this biodiversity,” Marek said. “Many Appalachian invertebrates, which make up the most diverse component of this fauna, are unknown to science, and without immediate taxonomic attention, species may be irrecoverably lost. My lab’s motivation is to preserve biodiversity. Intertwined is our goal to educate and promote an understanding of organismal biology, appreciation of nature, and its immense ecological value.”

Research was supported by a National Science Foundation Advancing Revisionary Taxonomy and Systematics grant.

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