Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Dragons out of the dark: New species of Dragon Millipedes discovered in Chinese caves


Six new species of Chinese Dragon Millipedes, including species that live exclusively in caves (Fig. 1), were recently described through international cooperation of research institutes from China, Russia and Germany. These cave species have unusually long legs and antennae, in one case resembling a stick insect (but with many more legs, Fig. 2), others appear ghosty white and are translucent (Fig. 3). The study was published in the open access journal ZooKeys.

In many tropical countries, there are numerous millipede species still awaiting discovery and description. Millipedes from China are especially little-known. Six particularly unusual species of so-called 'Dragon Millipedes', four of which found exclusively in caves, were recently discovered in southern China by an international team of researchers.

The extremely long legs of the Stick Insect Dragon Millipede, Desmoxytes phasmoides give the animal an unusual appearance, similar to a stick insect.

Sunbin Huang & Xinhui Wang (South China Agricultural University)

The Ghost Dragon Millipede, Desmoxytes similis, shows another common adaptation to underground life in caves; the complete loss of pigmentation gives the animal a ghost-like appearance.

Sunbin Huang & Xinhui Wang (South China Agricultural University)

The team included Miss Liu Weixin from the South China Agricultural University of Guangzhou, China [LINK1], currently conducting research for her PhD focusing on Chinese cave millipedes at the Centre of Taxonomy at the Research Museum Koenig (ZFMK), Leibniz Institute for Animal Biodiversity in Bonn, Germany [LINK2], her advisor Prof. Tian Mingyi [LINK3] and a renowned millipede expert, Dr. Sergei Golovatch, from the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow.

Dragon Millipedes, a genus of millipedes living in SE Asia, characterized by being armoured with unusual spine-like projections as well as toxic hydrogen cyanide, have become particularly famous since the 2007 discovery and description of the "Shocking Pink Dragon Millipede" in Thailand [LINK4].

This discovery highlighted a large number of unknown millipede species [LINK4] in the Mekong region [LINK5] and worldwide [LINK6]. While the newly described cave Dragon Millipedes from China lack the 'shocking' warning colour of their surface-living relatives, they are no less spectacular.

One of the species was named the 'Stick Insect Dragon Millipede' because it features extremely long legs and antennae, and resembles a stick insect, but with many more legs (Fig. 2). Two of the other species from caves fully lost their colour, which is a common characteristic of cave-living animals.

Because of this, they appear ghostly white (Fig. 3). All the newly described species come from the two southern Chinese regions of Guangdong and Guangxi Zhuang, which host a large number of spectacular caves (Fig. 1). These caves are only now being explored in some detail.

In the course of her PhD, Miss Liu Weixin has already explored more than 200 Chinese caves (Fig. 1) and discovered and described over 20 new millipede species. The Dragon Millipedes are among her most spectacular discoveries as they exhibit extreme cave adaptations including the loss of pigmentation and extremely elongated legs and antennae. During her guest research year at the Research Museum Koenig in Bonn, Germany, Liu is currently busy describing more than two dozen further millipede species, which she collected from Chinese caves – literally bringing to light an unknown world.







Contact person(s): Sergei Golovatch [English], 7(499)936-7671,; Thomas Wesener [German], 0049 (0)228 9122-425,

Publication: Six new species of dragon millipedes, genus Desmoxytes Chamberlin, 1923, mostly from caves in China (Diplopoda, Polydesmida, Paradoxosomatidae). Weixin Liu, Sergei Golovatch, Mingyi Tian

ZooKeys 577: 1-24 (05 Apr 2016)
doi: 10.3897/zookeys.577.7825

Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig – Leibniz-Institute for Animal Biodiversity (ZFMK) is an independent research institute. The focus of research is on performing an inventory of the zoological species diversity on earth, on the analysis of changes in biodiversity as a result of environmental factors, and on evolutionary processes at the morphological and molecular levels. ZFMK furthermore explores the context of structure and function of ecological systems, advanced scientific methods, and the study of the history of science. The permanent exhibition “Our blue planet – the living network” offers a genuine nature experience based on naturalistic ecosystem displays.

The Leibniz Association is a network of 89 scientifically, legally, and economically independent research institutes and scientific service facilities. Leibniz Institutes perform strategic and thematically-oriented research and offer scientific service of national significance while striving to find scientific solutions for major social challenges.

Weitere Informationen:

Sabine Heine | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht New technologies and computing power to help strengthen population data
22.03.2018 | University of Southampton

nachricht New interactive map shows climate change everywhere in world
22.03.2018 | University of Cincinnati

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Don't Give the Slightest Chance to Toxic Elements in Medicinal Products

23.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Sensitive grip

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

No compromises: Combining the benefits of 3D printing and casting

23.03.2018 | Process Engineering

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>