A tiny, velvety creature hidden beneath grass roots scurried on its 28 pairs of legs through in a rainforest in Brazil — and right into the hands of researchers.
It was a new species of velvet worm, identified as Epiperipatus puri, according to a study published Oct. 2 in PeerJ.
Scientists were exploring the the RPPN Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu, which is a part of the Atlantic Forest along the eastern coast of the country, when they stumbled upon the critter, the study said. Between 2012 and 2018, six specimens were collected from the same small area of tropical humid forest.
The critter is described as a small worm covered with papillae — which are tiny bumps that give their skin a rough texture, researchers said. They have a dark reddish brown exterior that is covered by a blurry, orange-brown diamond-shaped pattern.
Experts identified a female holotype of the species with 28 pairs of legs. Other specimens had 26 and 27 pairs, the study said. The holotype measured about 1.69 inches long while the other specimens ranged from approximately 0.47 inches to 0.87 inches long.
Male specimens have “inconspicuous” anal glands composed of two pores on their backside, scientists said. These glands and pores don’t exist in females.
The species was named after an indigenous population in Brazil known as Puri, according to the study. The group lived in the mountain region of the Rio de Janeiro state where the species was collected.