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Friday, 26 July, 2002, 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK
Centipede enjoys hustle and bustle
Centipede, APTN
The centipede with a Manhattan address
Scientists have discovered an entirely new kind of centipede living in the heart of one of the biggest cities on Earth.

The 10-millimetre-long creature turned up in New York's Central Park.

The researchers suspect it came originally from east Asia, probably hiding in an exotic plant or some other horticultural product.

The little predator is yellow, has 84 legs and sports some sharp pincer-like jaws.

It was discovered by a team of researchers from the American Museum of Natural History in New York who had been collecting leaf litter from Central Park to see what was in it.

They discovered about 10 specimens in two different sections of the park that spans 337 hectares (843 acres) in Manhattan.

Name credit

These were sent to Richard Hoffman, curator of the Virginia Museum of Natural History, who then sent a sample to colleagues in Italy to confirm the significance of the discovery.

"It's a tropical or a sub-tropical animal," Dr Hoffman told the BBC. "It's a brand new discovery."

To Dr Hoffman's surprise, the Italian scientists named the new centipede in his honour - Nannarrup hoffmani.

"I'm not sure I did enough to merit it - I was just an intermediary. I passed it on to them and they were kind enough to name it after me."

The survey that turned up the centipede was conducted to determine what animals and insects live in Central Park with the aim of trying to ascertain how best to preserve the green area's biodiversity and ecosystems.

Future population

"It's an exciting thing," said Michael Novacek, senior vice president and provost of science at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

"It's always a celebration when you find a new creature on the Earth. It's pretty interesting finding it in our own backyard."

The closest relatives of Nannarrup hoffmani live in east Asia. And the theory is that as Central Park's planners imported exotic plants from Asia, perhaps a 100 years ago, the centipede hitched a ride.

That it has survived at all in such a different environment is remarkable, scientists say.

One of the specimens they found is a female with semen inside her body, showing that the Central Park centipede continues to thrive and reproduce.

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Dr Richard Hoffman
"It's a brand new discovery"
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25 Apr 02 | Science/Nature
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