A new species of millipede, discovered in a cave in California, joins the rarely-seen family of Illacme, known for having more legs than any other animal on the planet. The new creature, dubbed Illacme tobini, has been studied from a single male specimen and boasts a strange list of body parts, including 414 legs (four of which function as its penises), 200 poison glands that spray an unknown chemical, mysterious mouthparts and a body covered in hairs that secrete silk.
Not much is known about the Illacme family of millipedes. Until the discovery of tobini, the sole species was the Illacme plenipes, first described in 1928 then not seen again in the wild for another 80 years. Of the 17 specimens in collections around the world, one holds the record for the leggiest animal on Earth, with a total of 750 legs. Most of the plenipes specimens were found near San Juan Bautista in California, and their rarity makes the new discovery particularly exciting for diplopodologists – scientists who specialize in the study of millipedes.
“I never would have expected that a second species of the leggiest animal on the planet would be discovered in a cave 150 miles (240 km) away (from the plenipes site),” says Paul Marek of Virginia Tech, one of the researchers who described the new species.
Just one Illacme tobini specimen was found in a cave during an expedition to Sequoia National Park in 2006, despite thorough searching in the cave and surrounding areas for more of them. It was preserved in ethanol, dissected and had samples of its DNA extracted, and study of its anatomy found it to be a close relative of the plenipes, but a distinct species.
With a tally of 414 legs, this one specimen sounds far short of the record-holding 750, but it is about average for the better known Illacme species. The tobini‘s four penises are actually four of its legs, repurposed for reproduction, and the body is covered with tiny hairs that appear to secrete a silk-like substance. Further adding to the mystery, pores in its mouth seem to give off an unknown secretion, and each of its segments is adorned with a pair of glands that spray poison, although just what it sprays also hasn’t been identified.
Since only the one specimen has ever been found, the researchers can’t be sure how widespread the Illacme tobini is, but it likely has a pretty limited range. They conclude that the area should be explored and surveyed in more detail to paint a better picture.
The research was published in the journal Zoo Keys.
It sports a green mohican, fleshy finger-like growths under its chin and can breathe through its genitals.
The Mary river turtle is one of the most striking creatures on the planet, and it is also one of the most endangered.
The 40cm long turtle, which is only found on the Mary river in Queensland, features in a new list of the most vulnerable reptile species compiled by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).
Despite the turtle’s punk appearance – derived from vertical strands of algae that also grow on its body – its docile nature made it historically popular as a pet.
Gill-like organs within its cloaca – an orifice used by reptiles for excretion and mating – enable it to stay underwater for up to three days, but it was unable to hide from the pet collectors who raided its nests during the 1960s and 1970s.
The turtle is placed at 30th on ZSL’s Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (Edge) list for reptiles. First established in 2007, Edge lists have previously been published for amphibians, birds, corals and mammals, helping guide conservation priorities for 100 most at-risk species. Each species is given a score which combines extinction risk with its evolutionary isolation or uniqueness, with the latest list supported by a study in the journal Plos One.
Top of the list is the Madagascar big-headed turtle, which has an Edge score higher than that of any other amphibian, bird or mammal, and is still taken for food and global trade.
Other unusual and endangered species include the Round Island keel-scaled boa from Mauritius, a snake which is the only terrestrial vertebrate known to have a hinged upper jaw; the minute leaf chameleon from Madagascar which is the size of a human thumbnail; and the gharial, a slender-snouted fish-eating freshwater crocodile. Less than 235 gharial survive in the rivers of northern India and Nepal.
Rikki Gumbs, co-ordinator of Edge reptiles, said: “Reptiles often receive the short end of the stick in conservation terms, compared with the likes of birds and mammals. However, the Edge reptiles list highlights just how unique, vulnerable and amazing these creatures really are.”
He added: “Just as with tigers, rhinos and elephants, it is vital we do our utmost to save these unique and too often overlooked animals. Many Edge reptiles are the sole survivors of ancient lineages, whose branches of the tree of life stretch back to the age of the dinosaurs. If we lose these species there will be nothing like them left on Earth.”
Alf is the little squirrel who can wheel himself around now.
This February, Karamel the squirrel was caught in a trap set for wild animals in Turkey’s southeastern province of Batman. Luckily for the squirrel, 19-year old Rüzgar Alkan walked by and noticed the injured animal. Alkan told the Turkish Hürriyet at the time:
“I found it in the woods. It couldn’t move. I had to do something so I took it to a veterinarian in the center of Batman, using what little money I had. The vet said the situation was serious and an expert vet should check it, so we started researching what we could do.”
Eventually Alkan found computer engineer Tayfun Demir, a squirrel breeder. Working as part of a group alongside orthopedists Mustafa Gültekin and Tolgay Şatana as well as physical therapist Eylem Küçük, Alkan took the bus to Istanbul where he handed the squirrel off to Demir. Alf, as Alkan named the squirrel, was in surgery for six hours at before emerging with this prosthetic. Platinum plates were were fixed in its four broken legs.
“Squirrels are considered like a species of mouse. So they are killed immediately wherever they are seen. But they are living creatures that can live in harmony with people. Awareness needs to be created in Turkey in this regard,” said Demir after Alf’s surgery.
While it’s undoubtedly good news for squirrels everywhere, once they get their hands on bionic power there’s no telling what else they could ruin.
The bird is named after the Canary Islands, not the other way around. The islands’ name is derived from the Latin name canariae insulae (“islands of dogs”) used by Arnobius, referring to the large dogs kept by the inhabitants of the islands. A legend of the islands, however, states that it was the conquistadors who named the islands after a fierce tribe inhabiting the largest island of the group, known as the ‘Canarii’. The color canary yellow is in turn named after the yellow domestic canary, produced by a mutation which suppressed the melanins of the original dull-greenish wild Atlantic canary color.
(For more information see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_canary)
The name Islas Canarias is likely derived from the Latin name Canariae Insulae, meaning “Islands of the Dogs”, a name that was applied only to Gran Canaria. According to the historian Pliny the Elder, the Mauretanian king Juba II named the island Canaria because it contained “vast multitudes of dogs of very large size”.
Another speculation is that the so-called dogs were actually a species of monk seal (canis marinus or “sea dog” was a Latin term for “seal”), critically endangered and no longer present in the Canary Islands. The dense population of seals may have been the characteristic that most struck the few ancient Romans who established contact with these islands by sea.
Alternatively, it is said that the original inhabitants of the island, Guanches, used to worship dogs, mummified them and treated dogs generally as holy animals. The ancient Greeks also knew about a people, living far to the west, who are the “dog-headed ones”, who worshipped dogs on an island. Some hypothesize that the Canary Islands dog-worship and the ancient Egyptian cult of the dog-headed god, Anubis are closely connected but there is no explanation given as to which one was first.
Other theories speculate that the name comes from the Nukkari Berber tribe living in the Moroccan Atlas, named in Roman sources as Canarii, though Pliny again mentions the relation of this term with dogs.
The connection to dogs is retained in their depiction on the islands’ coat-of-arms (shown above).
It is considered that the aborigines of Gran Canaria called themselves “Canarii”. It is possible that after being conquered, this name was used in plural in Spanish, i.e., as to refer to all of the islands as the Canarii-as.
What is certain is that the name of the islands does not derive from the canary bird; rather, the birds are named after the islands.
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GMO Animals? image of a piglet with its nose in the air
If you think genetically modified salmon is a bad idea, wait ‘til you hear what kind of GMO animals Recombinetics, Inc., the “Monsanto of the genetically modified animal industry,” wants to unleash on the market.
Among other things, Recombinetics wants to genetically engineer pigs specifically to withstand a miserable life in factory farms. Not only that, but the St. Paul, Minn.-based biotech company wants to keep the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) from having anything to do with regulating GMO pigs, or any other GMO animals that could end up in the U.S. food supply.
TAKE ACTION: Tell the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA): Genetically modified animals need to be thoroughly safety tested by the FDA!
Recombinetics president & CEO Tammy Lee Stanock recently published an opinion piece that argued for ending FDA oversight of genetically modified animals in favor of “putting the USDA exclusively in charge of regulating all food animals.”
The advantage for Recombinetics is obvious. The FDA uses its regulations for animal drugs to review the safety of genetically modified food animals, such as GMO salmon. But the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has no process whatsoever for evaluating the safety of animals created through novel technologies, including the gene editing technology used by Recombinetics.
If the company’s plan succeeds, this would be the most drastic deregulation of biotechnology to date—and gene editing is just too risky to deregulate.
The authors of a recent study published in Nature Methods, “Unexpected mutations after CRISPR-Case editing in vivo,” found that gene-editing technology can introduce hundreds of unintended mutations into the gene-edited animal’s genome.
Mutations in certain genes can lead to cancer in the animal. And there’s been no testing done to determine the impact on human health of eating animals with these mutations.
The only way to adequately review the safety of an animal that results from the use of a CRISPR technology, one of the technologies used by Recombinetics, is to sequence the whole genome of a gene-edited animal and compare it with a non-edited control. This is what the FDA should require of companies like Recombinetics—before their products enter the food supply.
TAKE ACTION: Tell the USDA: Genetically modified animals need to be thoroughly safety tested by the FDA!
Alexis for the OCA team
P.S. To avoid GMOs, including Recombinetics gene-edited animals, buy USDA Organic!
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