Trichopetalum whitei

Trichopetalum whitei, common name Luray Caverns blind cave millipede, is a rare troglobitic (obligate cavernicolous) millipede of the upper Potomac River drainage in four Virginia counties and three West Virginia counties. It has been recorded from 12 caves across this range, including the Luray Caverns where it was first discovered and described.

Trichopetalum whitei
Zygonopus whitei Ryder 1881.png
Head (1), enlarged 6th leg (2), and normal leg (3) of a male T. whitei

Vulnerable (NatureServe)[1]
Scientific classification
T. whitei
Binomial name
Trichopetalum whitei
(Ryder, 1881)

Zygonopus whitei


T. whitei is an eyeless, white (unpigmented) millipede. In common with all trichopetalids, it has rows of very elongate segmental setae extending in rows along the dorsal side. Proper identification requires microscopic examination and dissection of the gonopods (copulatory apparatus) by a specialist skilled in millipede identification.

Ecology and rangeEdit

T. whitei is a troglobite and occurs only in caves, especially occurring on damp, rotting wood. T. whitei is presumably omnivorous although nothing is known of its feeding preferences. Feeding is presumed to consist of picking up or scraping material from the substrate with the mouthparts then grinding with the mandibles.

The species is recorded from caves in the upper Potomac River drainage in Virginia (Augusta, Page, Rockingham, and Shenandoah Counties) and West Virginia (Hardy, Grant, and Pendleton Counties). However, if another cave millipede, T. weyeriensis, intergrades with T. whitei in Pendleton County and these two species are synonymous (as some workers believe), then the range of T. whitei would also extend into Greenbrier, Monroe and Pocahontas Counties in West Virginia.

Reproduction and life cycleEdit

Nothing is known of the life history of this species. In related species, the male secretes sperm from pores on the coxae of the second legs into coxal sacs on the post-gonopodal legs. The secretions from the coxal sacs then form the seminal fluid into a spermatophore which is then transferred to the cyphopods of the female during mating.

Conservation statusEdit

T. whitei is considered globally vulnerable to extinction by NatureServe, with populations in West Virginia considered critically imperiled and Virginia populations imperiled.[1] T. whitei is designated as a Regional Forester Sensitive Species in the Monongahela National Forest in the Eastern Region of the Forest Service.[2]


T. whitei was first described as Zygonopus whitei by Ryder in 1881.[3] It became Trichopetalum whitei with the synonymy of Zygonopus with Trichopetalum by Shear in 1972.[4] Causey has suggested that Trichopetalum weyeriensis may be a subspecies of Trichopetalum whitei rather than a distinct species.[5]


  1. ^ a b "Zygonopus whitei - Ryder, 1881 Luray Caverns Blind Cave Millipede". NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life. Version 7.1. NatureServe. Retrieved December 29, 2014.
  2. ^ Julian J. Lewis (2001). "Conservation Assessment for Luray Caverns Blind Cave Milliped (Trichopetalum whitei)" (PDF). USDA Forest Service, Eastern Region.
  3. ^ J. A. Ryder (1881). "List of the North American species of myriapods belonging to the family Lysiopetalidae, with a description of a blind form from Luray Cave, Virginia". Proceedings of the United States National Museum. 3: 524–529. doi:10.5479/si.00963801.3-181.524.
  4. ^ William Shear (1972). "Studies in the milliped Order Chordeumida (Diplopoda): a revision of the Family Cleidogonidae and reclassification of the Order Chordeumida in the New World". Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology. 144: 151–352.
  5. ^ John. R. Holsinger, Roger A. Baroody & David C. Culver (1976). "The invertebrate cave fauna of West Virginia". West Virginia Speleological Survey Bulletin. 7: 1–82.

Further readingEdit

  • Elliott, William R. (1998), "Conservation of the North American cave and karst biota" In Subterranean Biota (Series: Ecosystems of the World). Elsevier Science, Electronic preprint at 29 pages.
  • Holsinger, John R.; Culver, David C. (1988). "The invertebrate cave fauna of Virginia and a part of eastern Tennessee: Zoogeography and Ecology". Brimleyana. 14: 1–162.
  • Loomis, Harold F. (1939). "The millipeds collected in Appalachian caves by Mr. Kenneth Dearolf". Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology. 86: 165–193.
  • "Conservation Assessment for Luray Caverns Blind Cave Milliped" (Trichopetalum whitei) 8
  • "Conservation Assessment for Luray Caverns Blind Cave Milliped" (Trichopetalum whitei) 9
  • Schubart, O. (1934), "Tausendfüßler oder Myriapoda. 1: Diplopoda", In Die Tierwelt Deutschlands, 28 Teil. Jena: Gustav Fischer, 318 pages.
  • Shear, William A. (1971). "The milliped Family Conotylidae in North America, with a description of the new Family Adritylidae (Diplopoda: Chordeumida)". Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology. 141 (2): 55–97.