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Glenwood locals get millipedes named in their honor

Two get new species of millipedes named in their honor

Coloradesmus warneri is one of four millipede species recently identified from Colorado caves. C. warneri is about the same size as C. beckleyi, which is to say tiny.
David Steinmann

It’s the little things that count.

And these little things have 17 pairs of legs to count with.

Two locals have received the (dubious?) honor of having millipedes named after them.

David Steinmann, a wetlands biologist from Boulder, spends his free time crawling around in caves discovering new life forms.

He has rewarded two of the people who have helped him in those pursuits by lending their names to the specific epithet of new millipede species.

Steve Beckley
Millipedes-gpi-061020-4.48.13-PM

Steve Beckley, the owner of Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs, can now boast of having one of the smallest millipedes on earth named for him, Coloradesmus beckleyi

“Steve’s just such a great guy. He’s very helpful with the caving community in Colorado. … He’s a wonderful steward of the cave, and it’s a great place to visit,” said Steinmann, also a research associate in the zoology department at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

Of having an arthropod named for him, Beckley said with a chuckle, “It’s quite an honor.”

He did have high praise for Steinmann, though.

“Dave is phenomenal. He goes all over looking for special insects. He’s found stuff all over the world,” Beckley said.

Kay Hopkins
Kay-Hopkins

Kay Hopkins, outdoor recreation planner for the White River National Forest, has had a millipede in the same genus named for her. C. hopkinsae was found in several caves on national forest land, including Groaning Cave near the Deep Creek overlook on the Flat Tops.

“She’s just been so helpful to me with getting permits and assisting me over the years and doing my collections in the caves, and also she’s been such an advocate for cave protection within the [U.S.] Forest Service system. She’s been a real asset to the community as well,” Steinmann said.

Hopkins is both amused and honored.

“I’m really honored because working with people like David Steinmann and others over the years … they’re an amazing group of conservationists and scientists that really have taught me a lot, so I’m very honored. It is cool. We all laugh and everybody grins, but it is an honor,” Hopkins said.

A scanning electron micrograph of Coloradesmus beckleyi.
Millipedes-gpi-061020-2

C. Beckleyi is about 4 mm long and as thin as dental floss, according to a press release. 

Steinmann said he found it in 1999, but it wasn’t until 2019 that it was identified and named.

“It took two decades. It was very complicated to make the determination with the millipede expert,” Steinmann said.

While the generic name Coloradesmus was selected because the millipedes are known only from Colorado, Steinmann thinks it’s a strong possibility that the millipedes exist elsewhere. 

“We found some about 5 miles from the Wyoming border, so I could easily see them being in Wyoming. Actually, no one’s hardly ever looked for cave life in Montana or Wyoming or South Dakota. Who knows what’s up there,” he said.

These millipedes live in total darkness and are eyeless and albino. They sense their surroundings using antennae and small hairs called setae, according to the press release.   

Steinmann said they eat organic matter, pieces of old wood, bacteria and animal scat. “Nothing else eats them,” he said.

Maybe Beckley and Hopkins will be relieved to hear that.

cwertheim@postindependent.com


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