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

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht NASA eyes Pineapple Express soaking California
24.02.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht 'Quartz' crystals at the Earth's core power its magnetic field
23.02.2017 | Tokyo Institute of Technology

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Safe glide at total engine failure with ELA-inside

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded after a glide flight with an Airbus A320 in ditching on the Hudson River. All 155 people on board were saved.

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded...

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New pop-up strategy inspired by cuts, not folds

27.02.2017 | Materials Sciences

Sandia uses confined nanoparticles to improve hydrogen storage materials performance

27.02.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

Decoding the genome's cryptic language

27.02.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>