General, Research, Technology

These centipedes can block train traffic. But how do they do it?

Every 8 years, some Japanese trains are forced tostop movement, because thousands of centipedes crawl out onto the railroad tracks. This usually happens in two mountainous regions and scientists for a long time could not understand why exactly this happens. Researcher Keiko Niijima began to study this phenomenon in 1972. For nearly 50 years, he traveled to the Yatsugatake mountain range and the Yanagisawa Trail to study the centipedes obstructing train traffic. In some cases, he had to dig them out from a depth of 20 centimeters in order to study their life cycle as closely as possible. It turned out that throughout their lives these creatures go through 7 stages of maturation and at the last stage they get out to the surface. At the same time, they hardly move and fill the surface of the rails so that trains have to stop to avoid a disaster.

Tiny creatures can stop a train without even knowing it.

Development of centipedes

Long-term research resultsshared the scientific publication Science Alert. Centipedes, which periodically cause problems for railway workers, belong to the species Parafontaria laminata armigera. Their body length is on average 3 centimeters. In the course of studying these creatures, researcher Keiko Niijima found that it takes 7 years for them to transition from an egg to an adult. For another year they are in the maturing stage.

Scientist Collected Centipedes

We dug up the earth, placed it on a plastic sheet, and collected centipedes of different ages using tongs, - said Keiko Niijima and his colleagues.

During the study of the collected individuals, they managed toto find out that they spend most of their lives underground, and only when they matured they crawl to the surface. This usually happens in September or October. But in general, everything depends on their habitat.

Something like this can be observed on some railroad tracks in Japan.

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, centipedes are more oftenall appear on the territory of the Yatsugatake mountain range and the Yanagisawa trail. To reach the surface in early fall, sometimes these creatures need to dig about 50 meters of ground. It just so happened that they crawl onto the rails and thereby create dangerous conditions. Their slippery bodies may well cause trains to derail. Accidents for this reason have not yet happened. Perhaps it is precisely due to the fact that train drivers stop on time.

Did you know that in 2016, scientists discovered a new species of centipede with 414 pairs of legs?

Railway workers problems

In winter, creepy-looking creatures fall intohibernation. In early spring, they copulate and by the end of summer, females lay between 400 and 1000 eggs. Adults die and leave room for a new generation. This cycle repeats every 8 years, which explains the frequency of problems on the railways of Japan. And these difficulties have arisen for a long time. During the study of historical documents, it was found that thousands of centipedes were seen even in 1910.

Centipedes can cause trains to derail. So they need to be careful

How can you fight these creatures,is not said anywhere. It is far from the fact that they will be poisoned with chemicals. And the likelihood that another railway track will be laid because of the centipedes is very small. Fortunately, the problem is relevant only once every 8 years. By the time the centipedes crawl out to the surface, you can prepare in advance. There is also probably an opportunity to engage in the relocation of arthropod creatures.

Fancy animals

Scientists are most interested in the fact thatdiscovered millipedes are one of the few who have such a long period of development. In addition to them, cicadas from the genus Magicicada have a similar life cycle. They are born at intervals of 13 or 17 years. They were first described in 1758 by the Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus. Usually these unusual creatures with reddish wings can be found in the United States and Canada.

Magicicada cicada

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Now you know about the existence of 3-centimetercentipedes that can stop an entire train. But there are other creatures in the world that can influence organisms much larger than themselves. For example, in the second half of 2020, I talked about the world's heaviest goliath beetles (Goliathus). Their body length can reach 12 centimeters, and their weight is 27 grams. This insect is larger and heavier than the cartridge of a Kalashnikov assault rifle, so if it hits a person's head, it will not seem a little. You can find out more about this huge beetle and look at its photos at this link.