An assistant professor in Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Entomology, Paul Marek has discovered a new millipede which has more color combinations than any other millipede discovered previously.
Apheloria polychrome, the millipede is the tenth species Marek has discovered over last couple of years. The new species is named due to its multitude of colors. As for qualities, the millipede is covered in cyanide which means that if a bird accidentally preys on the species, the bird won’t survive. As a result, other millipedes that don’t have such toxic defense mechanism copy Apheloria polychrome’s colors in an attempt to avoid predators.
Talking about the latest discover, Marek said, “It is imperative to describe and catalog these species so that we know what role they play in the ecosystem — and what impact we are having on them. This region is ripe with biodiversity and is an excellent living laboratory to do this work.”
In addition to providing the colorful exoskeleton for other species in the ecosystem, the species also serve as a decomposer by breaking down decaying leaves, wood, and other vegetation to produce nutrients for the forest life.