Crushed Millipedes may have Played a Role in Australian Train Crash
Officials in western Australia are investigating whether a train crash was caused by an infestation of millipedes on the tracks.
The insects were reportedly gathered on the train tracks by the hundreds where the accident occurred.
The minor crash involved an occupied passenger train and an empty train in the town of Clarkson, about 25 miles north of Perth, The Australian reported, adding that some people involved in the accident complained of sore necks. At least six were taken to the hospital as a precaution.
Hundreds of Black Portuguese millipedes were reportedly found squished on the tracks at the scene of the accident, prompting transportation authorities to suspect the insects may have played a role in the crash by making the tracks slippery.
"Millipedes are one of the factors we are going to take into account," David Hynes, spokesman at the Public Transport Authority of Western Australia, said, according to the Daily Mail.
"What happened in previous instances is trains which were traveling at speed have gone over an infestation, crushed them and made the tracks slimy. The train loses traction and the train has slipped." Hynes said.
Last year train operators were warned after tracks were caused to become slick when a mass of the millipedes were crushed by the wheels of a passing train last year, The Australian reported.
Black Portuguese millipedes (Ommatoiulus moreletii) were accidentally introduced to Austrailia, where they are considered an invasive pest. They lack natural predators on the continent.
According to Stewarts Pest Control of Australia, the Black Portuguese millipede is distinguished from native millipede species from around Perth by their smooth cylindrical body, adding that the creatures tend to congregate in large numbers, especially after rainfall.
"Although Portuguese millipedes are not harmful to humans, they are a severe nuisance when hundreds or even thousands invade houses. They are one of the few millipede species that are attracted to lights at night," Stewarts reported on its website.