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Genus Polyxenus

bug with lots of setae - Polyxenus The All-Too-Familiar Whatsit  Pt. 3 - Polyxenus Millipede - Polyxenus Polyxenida - Polyxenus Polyxenus mystery class of arthropoda; collembola-like but with 4 or 5 leg pairs - Polyxenus bristly millipede - Polyxenus lagurus Polyxenus - Polyxenus lagurus
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Myriapoda (Myriapods)
Class Diplopoda (Millipedes)
Order Polyxenida (Bristly Millipedes)
Family Polyxenidae
Genus Polyxenus
Other Common Names
Fuzzy Millipede
Pincushion Millipede
Explanation of Names
Polyxenus Latreille, 1802
From Greek polys (πολυς)- "many, very" + xenos (ξενος)- "stranger, foreigner" or "strange, foreign". In ancient times it was used to describe someone who was hospitable to strangers, but it could also be translated as "very strange"
6 spp. n. of Mex.
2 mm
Known North American occurrences from (1)
P. fasciculatus: "Coastal Plain" - from MD to TX, north to IL
P. lagurus: MA, NJ, NY, MI, IL, MT, WA, CO, AZ. Widespread in Western Europe.
P. pugetensis: OR, WA, BC?
P. anacapensis: Channel Islands off southern CA.
Their typical habitats are generally described as litter and bark, also commonly collected from rocks and old walls (Wright & Westh 2006)
Sometimes communal:
Quinn (2000) collected over 900 spmns (Polyxenus sp.) throughout his sampling period of March-August in central Texas. They were fairly evenly present on live oak, cedar elm and juniper, but less than 20 were found on red oak. (2)
They are diurnally active, feeding on algal films and lichens, often in warm and dry conditions and direct sunlight. (Wright & Westh 2006)
Life Cycle
The millipede Polyxenus fasciculatus defends itself against ants by use of a pair of bristle tufts at its rear. When attacked, it wipes the tufts against the ants, thereby causing these to become encumbered by bristles that detach from the tufts. Ants contaminated with bristles desist from their assault. The bristles have grappling hooks at the tip by which they lock onto setae of the ants and barbs along their length by which they interlink. In attempting to rid themselves of bristles, ants may succeed only in further entangling themselves by causing the bristles to become enmeshed. Ants heavily contaminated may remain entangled and die. Most millipedes have chemical defenses; polyxenids, instead, have a mechanical weapon. (Eisner et al. 1996)
Print References
Chamberlin, R.V. 1922. A new milliped of the genus Polyxenus from the Florida Keys. Entomological News, 33 (6): 165.
Eisner, T., M. Eisner and M. Deyrup. 1996. Millipede defense: use of detachable bristles to entangle ants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 93: 10848–10851. Full PDF
Kincaid, T. 1898. A new species of Polyxenus. Entomological News, 9: 192-193.
Pierce, 1940. A rare myriapod from Anacapa Island, compared with two Texas species. Bull. Southern California Acad. Sci., 39 (2): 158-171.
Say, T. 1821. Description of the Myriapodae of the United States. Journal Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia, 2: 102-114.
Wright, J.C., and Westh, P. 2006. Water vapour absorption in the penicillate millipede Polyxenus lagurus (Diplopoda: Penicillata: Polyxenida): microcalorimetric analysis of uptake kinetics. Journal of Experimental Biology 209: 2486-2494. Full Text
Internet References
Info - Markku Savela
Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière des crustacés et des insectes, v.3, p.45 - Latreille's original description of the genus (in French)
Works Cited
1.Checklist of the millipeds of North and Middle America
Richard L. Hoffman. 1999. Virginia Museum of Natural History Special Publications.
2.Abundance and distribution of potential arthropod prey species in a typical Golden-cheeked Warbler habitat.
Quinn, M.A. 2000. Unpublished Thesis. Texas A&M University, College Station. ix + 182 pp.