Eleven-time Grammy-winner Taylor Swift has secured herself a place in the history books — but this time, it’s one dedicated to bugs, not music. A newly-discovered species of millipede, found in southeast Tennessee, has been named after the famous country-pop singer.
Nannaria swiftae, a twisted-claw millipede, is joined by 16 other new species announced in an article in the journal ZooKeys. The discoveries came after a 17-state, multi-year project to document different twisted-claw millipedes throughout the Appalachian Mountains.
Derek Hennen, a lead author of the study, said in a press release that he decided to name the millipede after Swift because of the impact her music had on his studies. “Her music helped me get through the highs and lows of graduate school, so naming a new millipede species after her is my way of saying thanks,” he said.
He also named another species after his wife, he told CBS News. “My wife supported me throughout my Ph.D. studies and is very patient with me during hikes, when I stop to collect millipedes often. Naming a species after her was a way to thank her for her love and support.”
The Swift twisted-claw millipede, Hennen said, is a “beautiful” millipede, part of a group called cherry millipedes that 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.
Millipedes hold an important role in their ecosystems as decomposers, spending their days breaking down leaf litter and releasing nutrients into the environment, the press release said. The scientists said that they can be “tricky” to catch, “because they tend to remain buried in the soil, sometimes staying completely beneath the surface.”
“There are still many new millipede species out there, we’ve barely scratched the surface!” Hennen told CBS News. “Millipedes, beetles, spiders, and other ‘leaf litter critters’ are in forests all around us, and new species of animals can be in anyone’s backyard. It’s important to pay attention to these small animals and not take them for granted.”