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New species of fungus that pierces its host to suck nutrients is discovered on TWITTER

New species of fungus that pierces its host to suck nutrients is discovered on TWITTER after biologists spot an image of an American millipede with bizarre red dots in a tweet

  • A new species of fungus was discovered in a picture posted to Twitter
  • Biologists  saw bizarre, tiny red dots on an American millipede 
  • After looking at other American millipedes, the dots were found to be a fungus
  • The fungus has had a presence for some time, but has gone undetected
  • It attaches to its host and sucks nutrition by piercing the animal

Scientists have identified a new species of fungus in an unlikely place – on Twitter.

Biologists spotted an image of a millipede while scrolling through the site and noticed a few tiny dots near the creature’s head – something that has never been seen on the American millipedes.

Following an investigation of the arthropods in the Natural History Museum of Denmark, the team found the same fungus that has never been documented.

The unknown species, called Laboulbeniales, is a tiny, bizarre and largely unknown fungal parasite that attack insects and millipedes.

The fungus sucks nutrition from its host animal by piercing the host’s outer shell using a special suction structure, while the other half of the fungus protrudes. 

The newly discovered parasitic fungus has now been given its official Latin name, Troglomyces twitteri.

 

Biologists spotted an image of a millipede while scrolling through  Twitter and noticed a few tiny dots near the creature’s head – something that has never been seen on the American millipedes

The discovery was made by biologist and associate professor Ana Sofia Reboleira of the National Natural History Museum who stumbled upon the image shared by her US colleague Derek Hennen of Virgina Tech.

‘I could see something looking like fungi on the surface of the millipede. Until then, these fungi had never been found on American millipedes. So, I went to my colleague and showed him the image,’ said Reboleira.

‘That’s when we ran down to the museum’s collections and began digging.’

Reboleira and her fellow Denmark colleague began the investigation by analyzing a group of American millipedes at the museum.

The unknown species, called Laboulbeniales is a tiny, bizarre and largely unknown fungal parasites that attack insects and millipedes. The fungus sucks nutrition from its host animal by piercing the host's outer shell using a special suction structure, while the other half of the fungus protrudes

The unknown species, called Laboulbeniales is a tiny, bizarre and largely unknown fungal parasites that attack insects and millipedes. The fungus sucks nutrition from its host animal by piercing the host’s outer shell using a special suction structure, while the other half of the fungus protrudes

The team identified the same dots on the specimens, confirming the existence of the previously unknown species of Laboulbeniales.

The fungus looks like tiny larvae on the creatures and are in a class of their own because they live on the outside of host organisms – and are even found on reproductive organs,

WHAT ARE MILLIPEDES?  

Millipedes are arthropods, relatives of centipedes and distant cousins of spiders and insects. 

They have a lot of legs, but nowhere near the ‘thousand’ implied by their name.

They are known scientifically as the class Diplopoda.

Although the name “millipede” derives from the word for “thousand feet”, no known species has 1,000.

The record of 750 legs belongs to Illacme plenipes.   

The fungus sucks nutrition from its host animal by piercing the host’s outer shell using a special suction structure, while the other half of the fungus protrudes.

Approximately 30 different species of parasitic Laboulbeniales-fungi attack millipedes. 

The vast majority of these were only discovered after 2014. According to Reboleira, there are most likely a great number remaining to be discovered. Research in the area of Laboulbeniales remains extremely scarce.

Although the fungus has been present on American millipedes, not much is known because it has gone undetected.

Reboleira hopes that the research will also provide useful knowledge about the parasites that attack and can be harmful to human health.

Reboleira also pointed out that many discoveries are made by sharing information on social media.

‘As far as we know, this is the first time that a new species has been discovered on Twitter,’ she said.

‘It highlights the importance of these platforms for sharing research – and thereby being able to achieve new results. I hope that it will motivate professional and amateur researchers to share more data via social media.

‘This is something that has been increasingly obvious during the coronavirus crisis, a time when so many are prevented from getting into the field or laboratories.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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