Researchers from UC Berkeley have discovered a new species of millipede in California.
The species, named Illacme socal, was found at Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park south of Los Angeles. According to Cedric Lee, a campus doctoral student in the department of environmental science, policy and management, colleague James Bailey found the species by chance.
“While looking for invertebrates I uncover this very millipede in Whiting Ranch,” Bailey said in an email. “It’s one of the few times where I’ve found something and immediately known this was something new and interesting.”
Bailey and Lee initially found a juvenile slug which looked similar to a rare species in California. They later went back to the site to find adult specimens and found the millipede which both knew was a potentially new species, according to Lee. Lee added that the species’ distinguishing features include its large number of legs and its pale, elongated body. The study detailing the discovery lists the number of legs as 486.
According to the study, millipede species such as I. socal that inhabit deep soil are not well known. Lee said this makes the discovery especially significant.
“We don’t really know much about their ecology, so I don’t know what behaviors it has that would be different to other millipedes,” Lee said. “I would assume since it has so many leg pairs it would be able to access different niches in the environment.”
Lee, who is writing his dissertation on centipedes, has previously discovered thirty other species, including some on campus. Most of these were centipedes, though he has also discovered other millipede species.
Researchers chose the name because there is already a species of millipede called Bidentogon norcal named after Northern California, according to Lee, so they wanted to name a species after Southern California as well. Bailey added that the informal phrasing of the name deviates from traditional naming norms in the scientific community.
Describing the species in detail will take time, as more research is needed on its anatomy and behavior, Lee noted.
“Our discovery can lead to more discoveries in the future,” Lee said. “Our discovery goes to show that there are a lot of undescribed species right beneath our feet.”