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Polyzoniid Millipedes

polyzoniid millipede with insert showing eyes and mouthparts.

Dorsal view of Petaserpes sp., a millipede of the order Polyzoniida. The insert at lower left shows a ventral view revealing the antennae, mouthparts, and first few pairs of legs. Total body length is less than 1 centimeter.

 

The photo above is Petaserpes sp., a millipede of the order Polyzoniida. This specimen was collected by UWGB student Bruce Snyder and professor Michael Draney during the summer of 2001, at the Toft Point Natural Area in Door County, Wisconsin. Although the study used several methods to find millipedes, individuals of this species were only found through leaf litter collection followed by Berlese funnel extraction. A Berlese funnel works by heating and drying leaf litter with a light bulb, causing animals to move toward the bottom of the funnel and into a sample collection jar. This is the first time in the last 50 years that Polyzoniids have been reported in Wisconsin. Since their discovery at Toft Point, they have also been identified by Snyder in samples collected by Dr. Draney and six undergraduate students at Cedarburg Bog in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin.

Millipedes are soil dwelling arthropods that eat dead plant material. Some millipedes eat dead animal material (Hopkins and Read 1992). They are quite diverse, yet are the topic of relatively few research projects. Taxonomic expertise is dwindling quickly: only a handful of experienced taxonomists are left in the United States and very few students are studying millipede taxonomy. Hopefully discoveries like this rare millipede will increase interest in millipede biology.


Works Cited
Hopkin, S P and H J Read. 1992 The Biology of Millipedes. Oxford University Press, New York, New York.

Text by Environmental Science & Policy Graduate Student Bruce Snyder.

© 2001-2004 The Cofrin Center for Biodiversity and the University of Wisconsin Green Bay, All Rights Reserved
Last updated on April 15, 2014