A remarkable new species of millipede, named Illacme socal, has been discovered hiding beneath the soil in Southern California.
This tiny, pale millipede with no eyes but approximately 500 legs was found thriving under Orange and Los Angeles counties.
The creature adapted to a life underground, remains largely unknown to the over 18 million people residing in the region.
The discovery sheds light on the diverse ecosystems existing beneath our feet and highlights the importance of conserving these understudied species.
Paul Marek, an associate professor of systematics at Virginia Tech, made the groundbreaking discovery of Illacme socal in April 2018.
He encountered the species at Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park, a vast area of rivers and woods in Orange County.
Additionally, Marek found a potential specimen, a juvenile millipede, in Eaton Canyon Natural Area north of Pasadena.
Researchers have identified the number of legs and rings as key differentiating factors between the creatures.
Unveiling the Unique Illacme socal Millipedes
Female Illacme socal millipedes tend to be larger and possess more rings and legs compared to their male counterparts.
The largest millipede observed had an impressive 125 rings and 486 legs, while the smallest had 51 rings and 190 legs.
Despite their somewhat unsettling appearance, these creatures play a vital role in the local ecosystem.
Millipedes such as Illacme socal help break down decaying matter, including plants and fungi, contributing essential nutrients to the soil and supporting new life.
Conservation Concerns and the Future of Discovery: Despite the significance of Illacme socal and other understudied species, habitat loss and human settlement pose serious threats.
Researchers emphasize the urgent need to conserve these unique creatures and their habitats.
Marek’s findings indicate that Illacme socal currently exists in only two locations, but it is highly likely that the species inhabited other parts of the Los Angeles metropolitan area before human development led to habitat destruction.
The discovery of Illacme socal provides a glimpse into the intricate and diverse ecosystems that exist beneath the soil in Southern California.
It highlights the importance of preserving these lesser-known species and their vital ecological roles.
As scientists continue to explore the uncharted territory of underground biodiversity, further discoveries are expected, shedding light on the interconnectedness of all life and the significance of preserving even the smallest and most enigmatic creatures.
Source: The Sacramento Bee