Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Pink Millipede

Millipede heading west - Chris Barnhart
Chris Barnhart and I were walking along, rolling over rotting logs like 5th graders and finding common millipedes like the Auturus evides below which we discussed in a past blog.  Then he spotted the tiny pink flat-back above, a new find for me.  He suggested looking at a publication from Emporia State

Auturus evides
Being the modern scientist and suddenly a budding diplopodologist, I chose the more modern scientific method and Googled "pink millipede" and rapidly came up with the Brachycybe spp.   Not only is this an unusual appearing millipede, Wikipedia describes a very interesting lifestyle.  While most millipedes are vegetarians, feeding on leaf litter and other dead plant material, Brachycybe eats fungi living in rotting wood. I believe our specimen is Brachycybe lecontii.  Brachycybe is Greek for "short head" which certainly describes this critter as I could only determine the front end from the direction it traveled.

Leg count - Chris Barnhart
Chris put me in contact with Norman Youngsteadt who has published several papers on related millipedes.  He wrote that he has found them under rotting logs and that they are uncommon.  He mentioned that the only report in Missouri was where he found them "in the National Forest in Christian County southeast of Ozark not far beyond where Red Bridge Road crosses Bull Creek."  That is a mile or two south of where we found ours.

Now here is where it gets really interesting. Most Brachcybe spp. exhibit parental care, an unusual finding in invertebrates. The males of most species guard the eggs until they hatch. Youngsteadt's paper has a photograph of a millipede wrapped around a clutch of 24 eggs.

Millipedes are cool and an understudied class of invertebrates commonly found under rotting logs, not as flashy (dare I say charismatic) as a scrambling centipede but a little more dramatic than a helpless earthworm.  If this blog has whetted your appetite for more diplopodology, a good place to start is this link that has extensive information on millipedes in general.
Here was a Halloween special I intended to post earlier.  Chris Barnhart had sent me this "Pumpkin Spider", his name for a species known to the rest of the world as a Marbled Orb Weaver, Araneus marmoreus. 
Marbled Orb Weaver - Chris Barnhart
Since then we found another specimen below, the same color but with a shrunken abdomen after she delivered her egg sacs.  I don't have any comparable photographs of the before and after in our family, (and if I put them on line even 50 years later I would have been killed by my wife in what any court would rule justifiable homicide.)
Marbled Orb Weaver, postpartum - Found by Courtney Reece - REK