Speleobiologists Discover Four New Species of Dragon Millipedes in China
A team of speleobiologists — scientists who study creatures that inhabit caves — from the South China Agriculture University and the Russian Academy of Sciences have described four new species of dragon millipedes from southern China, two of which seem to be cave dwellers. The study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.
Millipedes in the genus Desmoxytes are well-known because of their dragon-like appearance. The four new species can all be recognized by their spikey bodies — the distinctive characteristic which gave the genus its common name.
The four new species are called Desmoxytes lingulata, Desmoxytes parvula, Desmoxytes nodulosa, and Desmoxytes getuhensis.
Unlike other groups of cave millipedes, which are usually very common, representatives of Desmoxytes are comparatively rare in caves, and populations are low. In addition, they are often distributed in a narrow geographical area, and are sometimes found only in a single cave or cave system. Because of this rarity and endemism, dragon millipedes are ideal material for evolutionary studies.
China holds the most diverse resources of Desmoxytes, with 14 species in the genus, including nine that are cave dwellers. It is believed, however, that the country holds a greater diversity of these bizarre creatures, which are yet to be discovered.
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