Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fluorescent Millipedes? Sweet!

Just a quick post here to highlight one of the more interesting things I've found lately: millipedes that glow under UV light. I've been busy with my Investigative Studies Project, Capstone, and other related endeavors, so I'm essentially stockpiling a lot of photos and information for blog posts during winter, when I won't be finding nearly as much arthropod stuff.

You think you have to go to the rainforest to find neat stuff? HA!

I took a UV flashlight out to the field a few weeks ago and looked through the leaf litter--it was crawling with these many-legged critters. I could barely contain myself, it was just so neat. There were a few species fluorescing under the light, which is a result of a chemical in their exoskeleton, and the fluorescence was at bright as firefly bioluminescence. 

The millipedes were a nice size, hovering around one inch, and had chemical defenses. I grabbed a few to hold in my hand and could smell a slightly sweet scent on my palm after I returned them to the leaf litter. Chemical defenses, UV fluorescence....will millipedes ever stop being exciting? Nope.

Update (Jan 7, 2012): This millipede is Semionellus placidus, which is in a tribe that occurs mostly in the Northwest of North America. I'll try to gather more information and put that together for another post.

One of my next projects? Research the relationship between assassin bugs of a certain subfamily (Ectrichodiinae) and millipedes. Why? Some species in this subfamily are known to be millipede hunters. Maybe this holds true for our local species as well. The only genus around here in the subfamily Ectrichodiinae is Rhiginia, and I had the pleasure of finding the species Rhiginia cruciata during early summer. That gives me a good six months to prepare. Perhaps the millipedes have some dangerous predators to watch out for.

Scarlet-bordered assassin bug, Rhiginia cruciata. Millipede hunter?