Blacklights reveal millipedes lock legs during sex so the male can insert blue ...

It has been a nearly 80-year long quest, but scientists have finally discovered how millipedes mate.

Using new imaging techniques and blacklights, the team was able to make the different tissues glow and reveal these tiny creatures' complex genitalia to understand their mechanism of insertion.

Researchers discovered that the male's gonopods, the specialized pair of legs used to insert sperm into the female, first become covered in blue-ish ejaculate liquid and are then placed into the female's vulvae – at this point the two 'lock' together with the legs.

After mating, the female's vulvae is sealed up with a gooey secretion that traps the sperm inside until it is released after she lays eggs.

A team from the Field Museum in Chicago, which conducted the study, specifically analyzed the Pseudopolydesmus genus of millipedes.

A group that makes up of half-inch-long brown millipedes native to North America.

There are more than 13,000 known millipede species total, and they each mate in unique ways.

But Pseudopolydesmus caught scientists' attention because they appear especially eager to have sex.

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Using new imaging techniques and blacklights, the team was able to make the different tissues glow and reveal these tiny creatures' complex genitalia to understand their mechanism of insertion

Using new imaging techniques and blacklights, the team was able to make the different tissues glow and reveal these tiny creatures' complex genitalia to understand their mechanism of insertion

Petra Sierwald, an associate curator at the Field Museum in Chicago and one of the paper's authors, said: 'One of the problems with millipedes is that they do a lot of things while they are dug into the ground, and if you take them out, you will disturb them and they'll stop what they're doing.'

'Not Pseudopolydesmus, though. 'They will even mate in the lab in the Petri dish under the light.'

'This paper has been a long time in the making. It started out when I found a pair of this genus, a male and female, in copula, sort of attached. Their legs were obscuring everything.'

To solve this problem, Sierwald and her team took dozens of photographs of the creatures while mating at different distances.

Researchers discovered that the male's gonopods, the specialized pair of legs used to insert sperm into the female, first become covered in blue-ish ejaculate liquid and are then placed into the female's vulvae – at this point the two 'lock' together with the legs

Researchers discovered that the male's gonopods, the specialized pair of legs used to insert sperm into the female, first become covered in blue-ish ejaculate liquid and are then placed into the female's vulvae – at this point the two 'lock' together with the legs

And images were snapped in both natural and ultraviolet light, because millipedes' genitals glow in UV lighting.

A computer program was then used to stack the images together and combine them so that all the miniscule details were in focus.

Sierwald teamed up with Xavier Zahnle at the University of California Davis, the paper's first author, to gain further information about the structure of the millipedes' genitals, who conducted micro-CT scanning.

 'You can put these tiny millipedes into test tubes and do CT scanning on them, and you don't have to dissect the specimen, so it remains intact,' explains Sierwald. 

'That is the really cool thing. The CT scan takes images of slices, and Xavier worked out the entire

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