Biologist Ana Sofia Reboleira from the University of Copenhagen’s Natural History Museum of Denmark discovered a previously undocumented species of fungus that likes to ride on the surface of millipedes — and named it after something equally disgusting.
It’s new official Latin name: troglomyces twitteri, an ode to the social media platform that allowed it to be discovered.
Reboleira discovered the fungus while looking at a picture of a North American millipede uploaded to Twitter by colleague Derek Hennen, a researcher at Virginia Tech.
Tiny dots on the surface of the millipede first caught her attention.
“I could see something looking like fungi on the surface of the millipede, Reboleira said in a statement. “Until then, these fungi had never been found on American millipedes. So, I went to my colleague and showed him the image. That’s when we ran down to the museum’s collections and began digging.”
In a new paper published in the journal MycoKeys, Reboleira and her colleagues describe how the fungus can puncture the millipede’s shell so that half of it still sticks out.
The fungus is part of an order called labouls, a poorly-understood order of species. The researchers are hoping the discovery could shed new light on these tiny organisms and their relationship with their host.
To summarize: keep sharing your cool nature photos and pay attention to the details! Now if you'll excuse me, I have some millipedes to examine for parasitic fungus. pic.twitter.com/yPKYJKZJiP
— Derek Hennen, Ph.D. (@derekhennen) May 15, 2020
“As far as we know, this is the first time that a new species has been discovered on Twitter,” Reboleira said. “It highlights the importance of these platforms for sharing research – and thereby being able to achieve new results.”
It’s a type of discovery more pertinent than ever.
“I hope that it will motivate professional and amateur researchers to share more data via social media,” she added. “This is something that has been increasingly obvious during the coronavirus crisis, a time when so many are prevented from getting into the field or laboratories.”
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