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Taylor Swift has received numerous music awards and even an Emmy. Now, the popular American singer-songwriter can add an unusual achievement to her growing list of accolades — a new millipede species named after her. The Nannaria swiftae (N. swiftae) is one of 17 new twisted-claw millipede species recently identified by Dr. Derek Hennen and his team at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.
"I'm a big fan of her music, so I wanted to show my appreciation by naming this new species from Tennessee after her. A high honor!" Hennen tweeted.
The discovery was part of a multi-year research project to find and analyze species of the millipede genus Nannaria. They were among 1,835 millipede specimens found by the team during their multi-year search across 13 states in the biodiverse Appalachian Mountain region. While some of the newly-revealed twisted-claw species had been previously collected, they were unidentified until the recent study, published in the journal Zoo Keys on April 15, 2022.
The N. swiftae has reddish-orange spots, a chestnut brown body, and distinguishing bumps on its legs. Hennen said the "beautiful" creepy-crawly belongs to a group called cherry millipedes. The arthropods release a chemical defense against predators that smell like cherries or almonds. "It's a potent defense against predators but is harmless to humans," he added.
The millipede species was found only in Tennessee — where Swift began her career as a country singer. Hence, naming it after the artist made perfect sense. The entomologist called another species Nannaria marianae in honor of his wife, Marian. The rest of the new species were named after the plants or areas where the specimens had been found.
Though they may appear creepy to some, millipedes are important for our ecosystem. They consume decomposing plant matter and release nutrients that enrich the soil. The harmless creatures are efficient diggers and spend most of their lives underground. When threatened, they release chemical toxins that deter but do not kill a potential predator.
Swift is not the first celebrity to have an animal species named after her. In 2020, a new venomous snake species found in the Gulf of Guinea was named Atheris hetfieldi, after Metallica's lead singer, James Hetfield. American music performer Lady Gaga received similar recognition in the form of a new treehopper insect species dubbed Kaikaia gaga,
Resources: zookeys.pensoft.net, npr.org, livescience.com