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Millipede hunting with a millipede expert

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The violet crested millipede, the log lurker, the cherry millipede, and the ironworm. Take a closer, slow-motion look at these four specimens of millipedes found on the forest floors of North Carolina and beyond.

In this episode of Ant Lab, Dr. Adrian Smith goes millipede hunting with myriapodologist Dr. Derek Hennen.

“You might have already heard of him and his work. Part of his research involves describing and discovering unnamed species. The one he’s holding here in that vial is Nannaria swiftae, probably the first millipede to be featured in a Rolling Stone article, which happened after he described and named the species after Taylor Swift.”

Dr Derek Hennen in the forest
See how Hennen finds millipedes in the forest, learn more about how their legs move them through the leaf litter, and find out how excited a myriapodologist might get about the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences‘ “jars of pickled millipedes,” one of the most important millipede collections in North America. Hennen explains:

“These collections were worked on for decades by Roland Shelley. He spent decades of work putting names to species that we just didn’t know about before…”

Dr Derek Hennen

“These will be looked at by scientists today and, you know, decades into the future, maybe even hundreds of years, and they play a very important role in that all these specimens are tied to a specific place and time.

“And so when we’re thinking about things like threats to habitat and climate change, these form the foundation of data to where we can know, you know–’20 years ago, where did these species occur?‘—and then we can go back today or 20 years in the future see if they’re still there and learn why not. And so that’s very important to have.”

four millipede species
Related exploration: Dr. Derek Hennen’s Millipedes of Ohio Field Guide (.pdf), which includes information about millipede biology, their life cycle, ecological role, and more.

Find more Ant Lab on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.

Watch more millipede videos on TKSST, including:
• Why do millipedes have so many legs?
How do millipedes walk with so many legs?
Giant Millipede from the Amazon rainforest
• Life Under a Log: Arvolyn Hill explores at the New York Botanical Garden

Bonus: Why are museum collections so important? Sir David Attenborough explains.

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