New species of millipede named after pop singer Taylor Swift

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Music superstar Taylor Swift has a new fan — one that’s one inch tall and has dozens of legs! “Swifties” at Virginia Tech have named a new species of millipede in the singer’s honor.

A group of scientists named the insect after her because the lead author of the study is a fan of Taylor Swift.

Her music helped me get through the highs and lows of graduate school, so naming a new millipede species after her is my way of saying thanks,” says Derek Hennen, PhD, in a media release.

Swiftae among many new American bugs discovered

The Nannaria swiftae is a twisted-claw millipede that is one of 16 other new species uncovered from the Appalachian Mountains of the United States. Unlike Taylor’s golden locks, the millipedes have shiny caramel-brown to black bodies with white, red, or orange spots, and have white legs. These invertebrates are decomposers, meaning they break down leaf litter and release nutrients into their surrounding environment. Found on the forest floor, this species is difficult to find because they are frequently underneath the soil, staying completely hidden.

The team searched and collected new specimens of millipedes across 17 states in the eastern United States for multiple years. They rifled through leaf litter, rocks, and logs to find species and sequence their DNA to describe them.

Their search wasn’t in vain. They collected over 1,800 specimens and identified 17 new species. The team also named a separate insect Nannaria marianae after Dr. Hennen’s wife. The new species has a preference for forests near streams and typically live under the soil. The millipedes range between 18 and 38 mm long. Males are different from females anatomically as they have small, twisted, and flattened claws on their front legs.

We’ll have to wait and see if the Grammy award winner decides to add her newest insect fan into a future song.

The study is published in the journal ZooKeys.

About the Author

Jocelyn Solis-Moreira

Jocelyn is a New York-based science journalist whose work has appeared in Discover Magazine, Health, and Live Science, among other publications. She holds a Master’s of Science in Psychology with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience and a Bachelor’s of Science in integrative neuroscience from Binghamton University. Jocelyn has reported on several medical and science topics ranging from coronavirus news to the latest findings in women’s health.

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