An entomologist from Virginia Tech uploaded a picture of a millipede on his twitter profile. He does not usually upload these kinds of images, but he posted that one as a part of a challenge. His colleague, Ana Sofia Reboleira, saw those photos and spotted tiny dots on the millipede’s body.
This had her attention, and along with another colleague, she started researching the origins of those dots using specimens of other fungi found on millipedes, from a collection located at Natural History Museum.
She soon realized that the white dots she spotted on the body of the millipede were, as per her expectation, actually a kind of fungi. On further research, she found out that the fungus belonged to an order of fungi known as Laboulbeniales.
These types of fungi are found on the body of their hosts, in this case, it was a millipede. When it’s time to feed, they bury holes in the outer shell of the host’s body and move inside. However, a portion of them still stays protruding outside. Millipedes are known to host 30 different kinds of fungi, a few of them have been discovered, whereas the majority of them are still to be discovered.
According to Reboleira, very limited research is available on this kind of fungus. She believes that this recent find puts light on the fact that social media can prove to be of great help in future discoveries if people post relevant material, especially in this era of social distancing.
Getting to know further about this type of fungus will not only teach us more about the fungi but also the animals they feed on.
The new fungus species in named after twitter, Troglomyces twitteri, and the Reboleria’s research is published in a study,
“The first Laboulbeniales (Ascomycota, Laboulbeniomycetes) from an American millipede, discovered through social media”.
Santamaria S, Enghoff H, Reboleira AS (2020) The first Laboulbeniales (Ascomycota, Laboulbeniomycetes) from an American millipede, discovered through social media. MycoKeys 67: 45-53. https://doi.org/10.3897/mycokeys.67.51811