NSF Spends $82,525 to Study Self-Defense by Millipedes

November 26, 2013 - 12:14 PM

bioluminescent millipedes

Bioluminescent millipedes

(CNSNews.com) – The National Science Foundation spent $82,525 on a one-year grant to study on the self-defense of bioluminescent millipedes.

“Animals use myriad strategies to avoid predation -- camouflage, spines, and toxins are among a few. Animals that are toxic, inedible, or otherwise noxious often advertise this by a warning signal, for example the yellow and black stripes of a yellowjacket or the rattle of a snake,” the award abstract said.

“Bioluminescent millipedes, known only from California, are defended with cyanide and their green-blue glow is hypothesized to be a nocturnal warning signal,” the award abstract added.

“In this project, the evolutionary relationships of millipedes will be analyzed, using molecular phylogenetic methods, to pinpoint the origin of bioluminescence, and the ecological circumstances under which bioluminescence evolved will be investigated,” it said.

“The phylogeny will also establish a framework for a stable classification system for millipede biodiversity. The collections component of this project will provide species information posted publicly on the Tree of Life Web Project,” the grant added.

Educational websites will also be produced, including detailed information on decomposers as important members of the global ecosystem, as they provide functions that are essential to healthy ecosystems,” the grant said.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University is listed as the sponsor of the study. CNSNews.com contacted Paul Marek, the principal investigator for the grant, by e-mail and requested additional details on the study and asked why the study is “an important use of government funding at this time.”

“Thanks for your interest in our NSF supported research. However, I will not engage in a discussion with any media organization with an obvious political agenda,” Marek responded by e-mail.

Instead, Marek suggested CNSNews.com visit a website on evolution.

The start date for the grant was Aug. 10, 2013, and the grant expires on July 31, 2014.