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Central Park home to new centipede

Central Park visitors, step lightly: That bug underfoot may belong to a new kind of centipede, the first new species discovered in the park in more than a century.

The 82-legged creature measures just four-tenths of an inch was dug up in wooded areas of the 840-acre park, scientists said Wednesday.

The Nannarrup hoffmani, named for the Virginia scientist who helped identify it, turned up in the park's leaf litter _ piles of decomposing leaves, plants, fungi and twigs mixed with soil _ in 1998.

The American Museum of Natural History took samples of the litter as part of a project to help restore the park's wooded sections, said Liz Johnson, director of the museum's biodiversity program for the metropolitan region.

In a painstaking process, the samples were broken down into various groups _ centipedes, millipedes, worms and snails _ for identification. When a sample stumped the New York crew, it was sent to other experts.

Dr. Richard L. Hoffman of the Virginia Museum of Natural History was also stumped by the light yellow centipede with 41 pairs of legs and short antennas. The creature was shipped to Italy, where scientists determined it was something completely different.

"They said, "Wow! This is something we've never seen,' " Johnson recalled Wednesday.