‘Giant’ creature — with ‘jewel-like’ body — found in a rocky hole. It’s a new species

As sunlight filtered through the forest canopy in Thailand, a “giant” creature crawled around a rocky hole. The animal’s “jewel-like” coloring caught the attention of passing scientists. It turned out to be a new species.

Researchers ventured into the rocky forests of Loei province on several wildlife surveys between 2008 and 2021, according to a study published Sept. 29 in the journal ZooKeys.

During their fieldwork, researchers spotted 14 “jewel-like” millipedes crawling around holes in the rocks. “The (millipedes’) stark bright color invited collectors to pick them up,” the study said.

Intrigued, researchers took a closer look at the millipedes— and discovered a new species: Sphaerobelum turcosa, or the giant turquoise pill millipede.

The giant turquoise pill millipede can reach about 1 inch in size, the study said. The millipede’s body is smooth and “shining” with a “remarkable” coloring.

Photos show the giant turquoise pill millipede. Down the center of its back are several shades of blue and turquoise interspersed with black lines. The sides of its body are pale yellow.

The millipede can curl into a ball, photos show, revealing its “face mask-like appearance.”

Several views of the Sphaerobelum turcosa, or giant turquoise pill millipede, stretched out, rolled up and in its natural habitat.
Several views of the Sphaerobelum turcosa, or giant turquoise pill millipede, stretched out, rolled up and in its natural habitat.

Researchers said they named the new species “turcosa,” the Latin word for “turquoise, (a) greenish-blue mineral,” because of its coloring.

The giant turquoise pill millipede has only been found in limestone rock habitats of Loei province, the study said. This province is about 315 miles northeast of Bangkok and along the Thailand-Laos border.

The new species was identified based on its coloring and other physical characteristics, the study said. DNA analysis found the new species has between 17% and 25% genetic divergence from other giant pill millipedes.

The research team included Ruttapon Srisonchai, Natdanai Likhitrakarn, Chirasak Sutcharit, Thierry Backeljau and Piyatida Pimvichai.

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