Research Highlights: Millipedes ingest food using a sucking pump


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close up photograph of a brown millipede
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Millipedes ingest food using a sucking pump

  • Sucking liquid food is common among certain insects such as the nectar-sucking butterflies and blood-sucking mosquitoes.
  • This food-sucking mechanism has been observed in tardigrades, velvet worms, spiders, crustaceans, and insects.
  • Millipedes are a group of invertebrates having two pairs of legs on most of their segment.
  • Researchers discovered a fluid feeding mechanism using a sucking pump among millipedes.
  • They studied nine millipede species in the clade Colobognatha and found that the head of these millipedes has a pumping chamber.
  • Colobognatha has been suspected to have a food-sucking mechanism because of their pointed heads and the largely reduced mandibles.
  • The pumping chamber acts as a positive displacement pump which is similar to other insects.
  • A positive displacement pump is a pump that adds energy to a fluid by applying force to the liquid using either a piston or plunger.[1]
  • The millipede’s sucking pump works with protractible mouthparts and saliva to acquire liquid food.
  • Fluid feeding is one of the great capabilities of land invertebrates.
  • The study suggests that fluid feeding evolved with similar biomechanical solutions convergent across major invertebrate taxa.
  • Fluid feeding among insects is highly diverse today; however, it is still unclear why other invertebrates such as Colobognatha contain only a few food-sucking species.

Sources:

Moritz, L., Borisova, E., Hammel, J. U., Blanke, A., & Wesener, T. (2022). A previously unknown feeding mode in millipedes and the convergence of fluid feeding across arthropods. Science advances, 8(7), eabm0577. https://doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abm0577

[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/positive-displacement-pumps

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