Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Discovery of a translucent ancient millipede in a threatened iron-ore cave in Brazil

16.11.2012
Newly discovered, rare troglobiont millipede species was completely unknown from Brazil and can faciliate the conservation of its cave habitat.

The curator of millipedes at the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig (ZFMK) in Bonn, Germany was quite surprised when he received an e-mail from Brazil with photographs of a very unusual animal.


Ancient cave millipede (Glomeridesmus spelaeus). Remark the red iron-ore cave substrate.

University of Lavras (UFLA) in Minas Gerais, Brazil


Scanning electron microscope photograph showing one body segment of the newly discovered cave millipede. The exoskeleton is very thin, except for some thicker knobs on the surface.

Dr. T. Wesener, ZFMK, Bonn

The researchers of the work-group 'Subterranean Ecology and Zoology' at the University of Lavras (UFLA) in Minas Gerais, Brazil, Dr. Rodrigo Lopes Ferreira and his student Luiz Felipe Moretti Iniesta, took pictures of strange millipedes in Brazilian caves that they could not identify.

The photographs showed white, translucent millipedes (see picture 1) of a very rare, basal millipede group (Glomeridesmida) which is only known from a few species, none of which were recorded from Brazil.

The Glomeridesmida, which might be around since 350–400 million years ago, belong to the oldest animals living on land and to the most ancient and basal (often called 'primitive') millipedes. Now, they are only known from 31 species, living relics; and even these are only from a few spots of habitat spread out in widely separated areas in Central America, the Caribbean and other islands, India, Malaysia and Indonesia. The last description of a new species of the Glomeridesmida was in 1975. The species of the group are so rarely encountered that the received photographs were the first pictures of living specimens.

Luckily, the Brazilian cave researches studied and conserved some of the glassy-looking animals, and quickly dispatched a few millipedes to the Research Museum Koenig in Germany. There, it was soon discovered that they represent a new, still undescribed, and for the order Glomeridesmida with 10 mm quite large, species. The description, thanks to the help of a modern scanning electron microscope, includes detailed pictures of even the smallest objects. The calcareous exoskeleton and 'armor' of the millipede is so far reduced, that the animal is transparent, an adaptation to the absence of predators in the cave habitat. The millipede’s transparency allows the study of internal anatomy, including the intestine and the eggs, for the first time in these ancient millipede group. Unfortunately, it also makes the animals very soft-shelled and brittle; they break at even soft touches. The newly discovered species is a true troglobiont, it is only found in caves, and more precisely, it is restricted to a special cave system in Brazil.

The caves in which this species thrives were originally below the lush Amazonian rainforest. However, the rainforest has been cleared by humans, so the surface above the cave system is now farmland. Now, even the species sheltered in the subterranean cave system are in danger. Until 2008 all caves were protected by Brazilian law. Since then, caves can be destroyed for mining activities when they do not shelter any animal species that only live in the cave (so-called cave endemics). Such a mining project is currently going on in close vicinity to the cave habitat of the newly described millipede. The cave which the species inhabit is not a normal cave, but a special 'iron ore cave'. Following GoogleEarth satellite images (see KMZ file) one can easily see that the surface has been greatly modified between 2006 (when the caves where still protected) and 2012

https://maps.google.de/maps/ms?msid=202341165093589879967.0004ce87af0fd49db3c6b&msa=0&ll=-5.958882,-49.632368&spn=0.035683,0.038581

Given the circumstances,, the newly discovered cave millipede species was described as quickly as possible, so that the cave system it inhabits can be protected from the ongoing mining activities. Because the mining activities are progressing so fast, it can be concluded that the description of the randomly discovered unique ancient cave millipede appeared just in time, - five years from now the cave system and its unique inhabitants would have been extinct and gone.

The millipedes sent by the Brazilian team not only have the potential to save their species, but, thanks to the freshly collected material, the DNA of the Glomeridesmida can be studied in the future, which allows a genetic study of this ancient millipede order to proceed. In the meantime, additional Brazilian cave millipede species still await their description.

Link to the map of the area where the caves are located. Mining area unaffected in 2006 is marked in red:
https://maps.google.de/maps/ms?msid=202341165093589879967.0004ce87af0fd49db3c6b&msa=0&ll=-5.958882,-49.632368&spn=0.035683,0.038581

Link to the original publication: http://www.mapress.com/zootaxa/2012/f/z03550p042f.pdf

contact: Dr. Thomas Wesener
Curator

Tel.: +49 (0)228 9122 425
Fax: +49 (0)228 9122 212
E-Mail: T.wesener@zfmk.de

Sabine Heine | idw
Further information:
http://www.mapress.com/zootaxa/2012/f/z03550p042f.pdf

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>