Study determined it’s a warning to potential predators
UA researcher finds reason millipedes glow
Tom Beal Arizona Daily Star | Posted: Tuesday, September 27, 2011 12:00 am
Entomologist Paul Marek considers himself fortunate to have a wife who can fabricate millipedes.
Marek and colleagues published a paper Monday in the journal Current Biology that demonstrates the first evidence that glow-in-the-dark millipedes evolved that trait to warn predators that they are noxious creatures.
Marek tested his hypothesis with an experiment that involved live millipedes and clay models, made with a cast developed by his wife, artist Charity Hall.
There are 12,000 known species of millipede, but the eight that Marek studies are the only ones known to luminesce, using a protein that produces a cold, green light.
They are blind and nocturnal creatures who live exclusively in several forests in California, and have a fondness for decaying leaves from live oak trees.