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Jack Daniel’s Millipede Named

Here’s a discovery to raise your glass to—a new millipede named Scoterpes jackdanieli.

The 6.7-millimeter-long species was found in caves on the grounds of the Jack Daniel’s whiskey distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee, according to a recent study.

Millipede expert Bill Shear, of Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, chose the epithet to honor his favorite libation.

“I sent a copy of [the paper] to the Jack Daniel’s distillery,” he told me. “I was hoping to get free case of bourbon, but they never responded.”

A millipede in the genus Scoterpes that looks identical to S. jackdanieli. Photograph courtesy Alan Cressler.

Along with several other new millipede species—described in 2010 in the journal ZootaxaS. jackdanieli specimens sat in museum collections for several decades. The pale, blind millipede had been collected in caves throughout central-southern Tennessee in the mid-20th century, and it wasn’t until recently that Shear dusted them off and identified them.

“Museums are full of unnamed and unknown species that are just hanging in there, waiting to get a name,” he said.

Because millipedes often look similar to the naked eye, Shear determined S. jackdanieli was a new species based on the male’s genitalia, which can be quite complex, even in such tiny organisms. (Related pictures: “‘Torture’ Phalluses Give Beetles Breeding Boost.”)

Like most cave millipedes, S. jackdanieli has long legs and antennae that help it maneuver in the dark. The arthropod also has bristles on its back that produce a sticky substance, presumably as a method of defense, Shear noted.

Other millipedes are known for their more overt chemical defenses—for example, emitting noxious compounds when disturbed.

I actually experienced this firsthand in coastal Alabama when reporting on the Gulf oil spill in 2010.

The author holds a millipede in Alabama. Photograph courtesy Chris Combs.

I’d eagerly picked up a cool-looking millipede on the forest floor when the critter promptly squirted a dark-brown substance onto my palm. The fluid mysteriously hardened my skin, turning it a mahogany color for a few days.

When I described this to Shear, he knew exactly what I was talking about.

It’s the “same chemical,” he said, “used to tan leather.”

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Comments

  1. 5 Animals With Stinky Defenses | destroyinfo
    September 23, 2013, 1:51 am

    [...] These secretions can include hydrogen cyanide. You might want to watch out for two of the cooler-looking ones: Apheloria virginiensis (which Marek says has a nice odor, like cherry cola) releases cyanide, and Narceus americanus releases benzoquinone that can stain your hands. Just ask our intrepid editor. [...]

  2. Weird & Wild | Viktor Mar Bonilla
    September 21, 2013, 5:52 am

    [...] These secretions can include hydrogen cyanide. You might want to watch out for two of the cooler-looking ones: Apheloria virginiensis (which Marek says has a nice odor, like cherry cola) releases cyanide, and Narceus americanus releases benzoquinone that can stain your hands. Just ask our intrepid editor. [...]

  3. 5 Animals With Stinky Defenses – News Watch
    September 19, 2013, 7:25 am

    [...] These secretions can include hydrogen cyanide. You might want to watch out for two of the cooler-looking ones: Apheloria virginiensis (which Marek says has a nice odor, like cherry cola) releases cyanide, and Narceus americanus releases benzoquinone that can stain your hands. Just ask our intrepid editor. [...]

  4. Avery Greynold
    Los Angeles
    November 17, 2012, 5:33 pm

    A possible clarification: Jack Daniel’s makes bourbon, a general term defined by law, both US and international. JD chooses “Tennessee whiskey” as a more specific description of their process and origin.

  5. D Wood
    Los Angeles
    November 15, 2012, 5:15 pm

    Maybe they never sent it because *drumroll*: Jack Daniel’s is not bourbon.

  6. [...] (Read about the author’s encounter with a cyanide-producing millipede in Alabama.) [...]

  7. ellis jard
    Pt. Angeles
    January 24, 2012, 4:35 pm

    Aw, c’mon Jack Daniels–at least send the guy a coupon for some dollars off. You have any idea what it’s like studying insect phalluses?

  8. DeAnne
    USA
    January 5, 2012, 5:50 pm

    Weird, but interesting!