200-Legged Alien-Like Creatures Found in Tanzania : millipedes

Scientists have discovered a new genus and five new species of millipedes in the remote jungles of Tanzania in southeast Africa. The millipedes were discovered while researchers were studying tree and vine growth in the Udzungwa Mountains in Tanzania .

Description of the new millipedes

The millipedes, concealed within the forest litter and loose soil, proved to be much more than mere indicators of forest health, as Professor Andy Marshall of the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia initially assumed. Measuring just a few centimeters in length, these extraordinary creatures boast an astounding 200 legs each, adding to the mystique of their newfound genus .

The researchers also noticed that the millipedes’ heads resembled characters from the iconic Star Wars series. Professor Marshall likened their appearance to Darth Vader, Yoda and C-3PO . He said that it was remarkable that so many of these new species did not appear in earlier collecting of millipedes from the same area, but they were still hoping for something new.

Significance of the discovery

The discovery of the new millipede genus and species shows how much more there is to learn about tropical forests, according to Professor Marshall. He said that the millipedes will help them to determine two very different theories on the role of vines on forest recovery – whether the vines are like bandages protecting a wound or ‘parasitoids’ choking the forest.

The new genus is named Udzungwastreptus, after the Udzungwa Mountains where they were found. The five new species are Attemsostreptus leptoptilos, Attemsostreptus julostriatus, Attemsostreptus magombera, Attemsostreptus leptoptilos, and Udzungwastreptus marianae, according to the University of the Sunshine Coast. The specimens are now in the Danish Museum of Natural History at the University of Copenhagen .

Millipede diversity in Tanzania

Tanzania is one of the most diverse countries for millipedes in Africa, with 296 species recorded so far. The new discoveries add to this richness and highlight the need for more exploration and conservation of these habitats. Millipedes play important roles in decomposing organic matter, recycling nutrients and providing food for other animals.

The project, funded by the Australian Research Council, aims to understand global forest recovery from heavy disturbance. The research was conducted in collaboration with scientists from Denmark, Italy, Norway and Tanzania. The findings were officially described recently in the European Journal of Taxonomy in a paper titled ‘A mountain of millipedes’ .

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