Sunday, 6 October 2013

The origin of the Millipede Hoplatessara luxuriosa.

The Millipede Hoplatessara luxuriosa was first described under the name Strongylosoma luxuriosum by the Italian entomologist Fillipo Silvestri in 1895, based upon specimens apparently collected at Sorong in New Guinea (now part of Indonesian West Papua) in 1872 by the explorer Luigi D'Albertis. However no subsequent specimens have been found at this location, and this origin was called into doubt by the Dutch entomologist Cas Jaakel in the 1950s, who suggested that it appeared to be more closely related to Australian species than anything found in New Guinea, and who predicted that the origins of the species would one day be found to be in New South Wales.

In a paper published in the journal ZooKeys on 5 September 2013, Robert Mesibov of the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston, Tasmania and Catherine Car of the Department of Terrestrial Zoology at the Western Australian Museum detail the results of Millipedes collected in New South Wales between 1973 and 2013 and stored in the Australian Museum in Sydney, which reveal a number of specimens belonging to the species Hoplatessara luxuriosa, suggesting that it does originate in New South Wales, not West Papua.

Female specimen of the Millipede Hoplatessara luxuriosa from the Australian Museum in Sydney, collected near Sunny Corner in west-central New South Wales in April 2013. Scale bar is 1 mm. Mesibov & Car (2013).

The Millipede Hoplatessara luxuriosa appears to be native to the grassy eucalypt forests of western New South Wales, an area where temperature fluctuate over the year from about 0.7℃ to about 25.5℃ and an average of 858 mm of rain falls each year. In contrast the Sorong area of West Papua has annual temperatures that fluctuate between about 25℃ and 31℃, with an average annual rainfall of 2840 mm. Mesibov & Car conclude that it is highly unlikely that a small invertebrate could survive in both environments, and conclude that Hoplatessara luxuriosa is, as predicted by Jakeel, native to New South Wales.

A grassy eucalypt forest near Sunny Corner in west-central New South Wales, the preferred environment of Hoplatessara luxuriosaMesibov & Car (2013).

Luigi D'Albertis is known to have spentmuch of 1873 in Sydney between completing his West Papua expedition and returning to Europe. Mesibov & Car theorize that his specimen of Hoplatessara luxuriosa was collected during this time, and subsequently mislabeled prior to its description by Fillipo Silvestri.

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