A Small Millipede Helps Tell a Larger Story of Our Ecosystem with Virginia Tech Research

In *All, Agricultural Systems by Ag is America

Professor Paul Marek at the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Entomology made a pretty yet dangerous discovery: the bright colors of the thumb-sized millipede are actually covered in cyanide.

Apheloria polychroma, as the millipede is known, inhabits the forest floor of Southwest Virginia’s Cumberland Mountains. This toxic defense protects the millipede from predators, such as birds, from wiping out the millipede population.

Professor Marek runs the only millipede lab in the United States. This is the 10th species he has discovered and named in recent years; apheloria polychroma was named for its rainbow of colors.

His research helps tell the larger story of species evolution in his backyard. Professor Marek says, “It is imperative to describe and catalog these species so that we know what role they play in the ecosystem — and what impact we are having on them.”

Want to learn more about this colorful but deadly discovery? Read more here.

 

Photo credit: Virginia Tech.

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