Scientists name a new species after the singer

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Taylor Swift, American singer-songwriter known for hits such as ‘Shake It Off’ and ‘You Belong With Me’, has received a new accolade – she now has a new species of centipede named after her.

The bent-clawed centipede Nannaria Swiftae joins 16 other newly described species from Appalachia in the United States. These little-known invertebrates have a valuable role as decomposers: by breaking down leaf litter, they release their nutrients into the ecosystem. They live on the forest floor, where they feed on decaying leaves and other plant matter, and in fact are somewhat difficult to catch, as they tend to stay buried in the ground, sometimes remaining completely beneath the surface.

Scientists Derek Hennen, Jackson Means and Paul Marek from Virginia Tech in the US describe the new species in a research paper published in the open access journal Zoo Keys. The research was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation Advancing Revisionary Taxonomy and Systematics (DEB # 1655635).

Due to their presence in museum collections, scientists have long suspected that twisted-clawed millipedes included many new species, but these specimens remained undescribed for decades. To solve this problem, the researchers started a multi-year project to collect new specimens in the eastern United States. They traveled to 17 US states, checking under fallen leaves, rocks and logs for species so they could sequence their DNA and describe them scientifically. .

By examining more than 1800 specimens collected during their field study or from university and museum collections, the authors described 17 new species, including Nannaria marianae, which is named after Hennen’s wife. They found that centipedes prefer to live in forest habitats near streams and often find themselves buried underground, exhibiting more cryptic behaviors than their 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, flattened claws on their forelegs, which is the basis of their common name.

The study’s lead author, Derek Hennen, is a Taylor Swift fan.

“His music got me through the ups and downs of graduate school, so naming a new species of centipede after him is my way of saying thank you,” he says.

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