Taylor Swift, an American singer-songwriter known for hits such as “Shake It Off” and “You Belong With Me”, has earned new recognition – she now has a new type of centipede named in her honor.
Centipede with twisted claws Nannaria swiftae joins 16 other new species described from the Appalachian Mountains in the United States. These little-known invertebrates have a valuable decomposing role: by breaking down leaves, they release their nutrients into the ecosystem. They live on forest soil, where they feed on decaying leaves and other plant matter, and are actually a bit difficult to catch because they tend to stay buried in the ground, sometimes remaining completely below the surface.
Scientists Derek Hennen, Jackson Means and Paul Marek of Virginia Tech, USA, describe a new species in a research paper published in the Open Access Journal ZooKeys. The research was funded by a donation from the National Science Foundation for the Improvement of Audit Taxonomy and Systematics (DEB # 1655635).
Because of their presence in museum collections, scientists have long suspected that polychaetes with twisted claws include many new species, but these specimens have been indescribable for decades. To fix this, the researchers began a multi-year project to collect new specimens across the eastern United States. They traveled to 17 U.S. states, checking under leaves, rocks and logs to find species so they could sequence their DNA and describe them scientifically.
Observing over 1,800 specimens collected in field research or taken from university and museum collections, the authors described 17 new species, including Nannaria mariana, named after Henin’s wife. They found that centipedes prefer to live in wooded habitats near streams and are often buried underground, showing more mysterious behavior than relatives.
The newly described centipedes are between 18 and 38 mm long, have a shiny caramel-brown to black body with white, red or orange spots and white legs. Males have small, twisted and flattened claws on their front legs, which is the basis of their common name.
The lead author of the study, Derek Hennen, is a fan of Taylor Swift.
“Her music has helped me get through the ups and downs in graduate school, so naming a new species of centipede after her is my way of thanking,” she says.
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