Six new species of Chinese dragon millipedes have been discovered in Guangdong and Guangxi Zhuang, China by an international team of scientists from the South China Agricultural University, the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig in Germany. In the study published online on April 5 in the journal ZooKeys, some of the millipedes are said to be white and semi-transparent and some have unusually long legs and antennae, resembling a stick insect but with more legs.

According to the researchers, dragon millipedes are a genus of millipedes in southeastern Asia known for their spine-like projections that stand as their armour. Moreover, some dragon millipedes are capable of producing toxic hydrogen cyanide to defend themselves against predators. These arthropods usually live on the surface but four of the new species never leave their underground shelter.

Some arthropods, such as the millipede discovered in 2007 in Thailand called the shocking pink dragon millipede, are known to have a bright, warning colour. However, the new species do not have this bright colour as a result of adapting to extreme cave conditions that caused it to lose its pigment, turning into a ghost-like white colour and some even turned semi-transparent.


A mating couple of the new millipede species Desmoxytes laticollis. From Sunbin Huang, Xinhui Wang and South China Agricultural University

The discovery was made by the study’s co-author Liu Weixin, a Ph.D. candidate at the South China Agricultural University in Guangzhou, China, along with scientists from Germany, lead author Tian Mingyi, Liu’s advisor and Sergei Golovatch, a famous millipede expert from the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.

Liu Weixin has already discovered many millipede species in more than 200 caves in China. The researcher claims that these six new species of dragon millipedes are among her most spectacular discoveries.

Nevertheless, the researchers point out that many species of millipedes remain under-researched.  Apparently, many millipede species are still waiting to be discovered. Liu is presently studying another batch of two dozen millipede species also discovered in caves in China.