‘Dragon ball’ creature — with countless legs — discovered in Thailand. See new species

Against the mossy rocks of towering cliffs in Thailand, a bright orange spot stands out in contrast.

Segmented pieces fit together like a puzzle to form a spherical body. Then, it quickly unfurls and tons of tiny legs kick into motion to scuttle away.

It’s a small millipede, and while most people might say it looks like a fish egg or a sungold tomato, a group of researchers saw the creature and thought of something else — “Dragon Ball.”

The Dragon Ball orange bullet millipede, Hyleoglomeris dracosphaera, was described as a new species along with five others in a new study published April 26 in the journal Contributions to Zoology.

The bright orange millipede is less than a centimeter long and has unique legs, researchers said. Screengrab from Animal Systemics Research Unit's Facebook post
The bright orange millipede is less than a centimeter long and has unique legs, researchers said. Screengrab from Animal Systemics Research Unit's Facebook post

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Researchers from the Animal Systematics Research Unit of Chulalongkorn University said the discovery of the new species was confusing — and accidental, according to a May 9 Facebook post.

Most millipedes found in caves and around rocks in Thailand are generally dark colored, allowing them to blend in to the landscape, the researchers said.

This species, however, was bright and the only orange millipede in its genus, according to the study.

As the team searched the area as part of the Animal Systematics Task Force, the millipede was hard to miss and was brought back to the biological station for a closer look, according to the post.

The name was chosen “to emphasize the orange body which, when rolled up into a sphere, resembles Dragon Balls, the magical artifacts in the Japanese manga and anime series Dragon Ball,” the researchers said.

Less than a centimeter long, the millipede has growths on its legs of “large size and triangular shape,” according to the study. This, combined with the unique color, helped the researchers confirm its status as a newly discovered species.

Five other species were also identified in the study, including the black-spotted little bullet millipede, the Suwannakhuha little bullet millipede, the bee-striped little bullet millipede, the Thong Kerd little millipede and the little pill millipede, according to the researchers.

The term “bullet millipede” comes from the Thai word “กระสุน,” meaning bullet, ammunition or shot, the researchers said.

Despite their “Dragon Ball” appearance, collecting seven of them won’t summon the Eternal Dragons to grant a blessing, the researchers joked.

The millipede was discovered in Tham Pha Tha Phon non-hunting area in the Noen Maprang District, in north-central Thailand.

Google Translate was used to translate the Facebook post from the Animal Systematics Research Unit.

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