Giant Millipedes On This Island Are At Risk Of Being Decapitated Every May, But The Reason Why This Happens Remains A Mystery

Bokicbo - - illustrative purposes only

Each year, around the end of May, giant millipedes on Tuckernuck Island are at risk of being decapitated.

As summer progresses, more and more of the millipedes turn up headless on trails and roads. The strangest part is that no one knows what’s making the insects lose their heads.

In 2009, researchers from the Maria Mitchell Association tried to figure out the answer to this question, but they weren’t able to come up with any conclusive results.

If scientists can determine what the culprit may be, it could change the way that animal behavior is being understood.

Locals have been reporting the decapitated millipedes as far back as the 1940s. The millipedes are a good source of food for many creatures, but eating them safely can be a challenge.

Their bodies are packed with poisonous glands except for their head and first five body segments. So, whatever animal might be eating the millipedes has likely figured out how to avoid the poisonous parts.

One of the first scientists to look into the Tuckernuck millipedes was Lawrence Millman. He arrived on the island in 2004 to study fungi.

As he poked around, he kept encountering dozens of headless millipedes. The bodies were decapitated with clean precision. He came to believe that the killer was a vole.

Voles are common on Tuckernuck Island. The small, burrowing rodents are mostly herbivorous, but they seemed to be prime candidates.

Bokicbo – – illustrative purposes only

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