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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

The Millipede: 15 Facts You Won’t Believe!

Millipede facts are all about the slithering arthropod with several pairs of legs.

Millipedes, belonging to phylum arthropoda, are invertebrates (without a vertebral column) with several pairs of legs and body segments that are externally distinguishable. The number of identified and described millipede species range between 7000-12000. They belong to class diplopoda, a name given due to the millipedes' characteristic feature of two pairs of legs in each of the segments.

Millipedes are among the first organisms to have inhabited land on earth, the earliest known fossil being that of Pnueumodesmus newmani that lived almost 428 million years ago in the Silurian period. There is often confusion between millipedes and centipedes. However, there are certain differences between them, the most significant one being that, unlike millipedes, centipedes have one pair of legs per body segment. Further, millipedes and centipedes belong to different classes, the latter being in class chilopoda.

Differing in color, size, and shape, there are different millipede types that inhabit the earth. Some of the most fascinating types of millipedes that exist include the shocking pink dragon millipede (Desmoxytes purpurosea), giant African millipede (Archispirostreptus gigas), and cave millipedes (Causeyella youngsteadtorum). One of the most common and prominent millipede species is the North American millipede (Narceus americanus) found in several regions of the United States.

If millipedes intrigue you, read on to know more about them!

Millipede Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a millipede?

Millipedes are arthropods that might look like any other worm at first glance. But a closer look and you will see that despite its crawling movement like that of a worm, millipedes are quite unlike them in having an exoskeleton (external skeleton), numerous body segments, and two pairs of legs in each of the segments.

What class of animal does a millipede belong to?

Millipedes belong to phylum arthropoda, the phylum includes all other insects from centipedes, scorpions, and spiders to crabs, lobsters, shrimps, and crayfish. Millipedes are further classified into class diplopoda due to the characteristic presence of two pairs of legs in each body segment.

How many millipedes are there in the world?

Given their small size and abundance, it is practically impossible to keep track of the exact number of millipedes in the world. But they have between 7000-12000 identified species worldwide and an overwhelming number of them are found in the United States alone!

Where does a millipede live?

Millipedes prefer the moist soil, decaying plant matter and leaf litter, and mulch as their primary dwelling site. Since they feed on dead and rotting plant matter, they are mostly found in forests, agricultural lands, gardens, lawns, and areas that are moist and humid. You may also spot them in urban or suburban areas and inside buildings where it is moist and damp, such as door thresholds, basements, and crawl spaces.

What is a millipede's habitat?

Millipedes are found in almost all terrestrial habitats. They inhabit all continents except Antarctica and typically dwell on forest floors that are damp and covered with dead remains of plants and other organic matter. They are also occasionally found on the moist remains of dead animals. While millipedes prefer the outdoors, they may be drawn into your house in search of water or shelter but have no bad impact. Even then, they occupy the damp nooks and crannies of homes. Since the cuticle (outer layer of the body) of millipedes is permeable to water, they thrive in areas with high humidity, failing which they become dehydrated and die. Various species of millipedes are found right from the sea level to high up in the mountains. The deciduous forests of the temperate zone are abundant with millipedes and other habitats occupied by different species include the alpine ecosystem, coniferous forests, deserts, caves, and seashores. The most common species, the North American millipedes, are found in the United States and Canada. Millipedes usually exhibit a burrowing habit.

Who do millipede live with?

Some species of millipedes are known to swarm together in clusters for hunting or during the mating season. Even juvenile millipedes are reported to swarm together as a protective mechanism against predators. While the millipedes migrate, the clusters often become two to three millipedes deep in a way that the individuals on the top seem to move along due to the crawling of the members below. These millipede clusters are pretty good barriers against intruding insects such as ants. Besides, millipedes have been reported to have mutualistic and commensal relationships with other species like mites and mosses. In comparison with other insects, millipedes hardly have any impact on humans. But, like pests, they can be a nuisance to plants and crops.

How long does a millipede live?

It is quite difficult to give an outright answer to this, especially if we are to cover all millipedes in general. While it is challenging to figure out how long they can survive in the wild, estimates suggest that millipedes have a life span of around 10-11 years in captivity or in a laboratory environment. The longest recorded lifespan of the North American millipede species is 11 years.

How do they reproduce?

Despite being smaller compared to many other insects, the millipedes have an impressive reproduction system. Male and female millipedes have to mate to produce the young millipede and most often it is the male that straightaway deposits the sperm (male reproductive cell) into the reproductive organ of the female. However, millipedes show a variety of mating structures and styles. For instance, bristly millipede males deposit their sperm on a web they spin and the female then puts the sperms into its own reproductive organ. In others, such as the pill millipedes, the male releases a sperm packet behind its head that passes from one pair of feet to the next until they reach the female's reproductive organ. Depending on the species, millipede females can lay between 10-300 eggs at a time and fertilize them with the stored sperms. While some species leave the eggs on the moist soil, others may protect it with dried feces or silk cocoons, abandon them, or even take proper parental care of the eggs and the young.

What is their conservation status?

The millipedes have no special conservation status.

Millipede Fun Facts

What do millipede look like?

Millipedes and centipedes with their long cylindrical bodies, body segments, and tiny feet are quite the intriguing creatures!

Millipedes somewhat look like worms but they have a hard outer covering (exoskeleton) which is absent in worms and is a distinguishing feature of the phylum arthropoda. The characteristic attribute of the millipedes is the fusion of two body segments to form the diplosomite. The most common species can have anything in between 34-400 millipede legs, and the millipede holding the record for the highest number of legs is Illacme plenipes with up to 750 legs! The body of a millipede is usually cylindrical or flattened and segmented. The first segment (head) is devoid of legs, the next three segments contain one pair of legs each, and the rest have two pairs of legs each. The head contains simple eyes, antennae, and a single maxilla (upper jaw). The number of segments varies with species. Millipedes come in a wide range of colors but the most common species are either brown, grey, dark grey, or black.

How cute are they?

Millipedes aren't typically regarded as "cute," but given their neat body segments and rows of tiny feet, millipedes do have a striking appearance.

How do they communicate?

Millipedes sense and perceive their environment through the antennae which can sense pheromones (chemical secretions that affect animal behavior), smell odors, taste food, find water, and feel temperature. The eyes detect movement and light and some species of millipedes even have Tömösváry organs on the head that are sensory in nature.

How big is a millipede?

The length of a millipede can range between 0.08-14 in (2 mm- 35 cm) and are as long as a common earthworm.

How fast can a millipede move?

No exact figure is available but millipedes move pretty slowly in wave-like motions.

How much does a millipede weigh?

The weight depends on the species and the length but an average estimate is that of 0.09 oz (2.5 gm).

What are their male and female names of the species?

Male and female millipedes do not have any distinct names.

What would you call a baby millipede?

Baby millipedes do not have any specific name.

What do they eat?

Are you wondering what millipedes eat? Well, millipedes mostly eat dead and decaying plant matter. They are scavengers (feeding on dead plants and organisms) and may also eat decaying and damp wood.

Are they poisonous?

Are millipedes dangerous? Is a millipede poisonous? Well, millipedes are not particularly dangerous and they can neither be called friendly or hostile. They feed on damaged plants and crops and are quite the pests. A millipede bite is rarely heard of but their defensive glands secrete a stinky liquid that can cause a burning and itching sensation of the skin. If the liquid comes in contact with the eyes, it may cause redness, pain, and swelling.

Would they make a good pet?

Many millipedes, especially the giant ones, can be low maintenance and good pets.

Did you know...

A millipede has only three pairs of legs and six body segments when it is born.

Male millipedes often court their female counterparts with calming sounds and gentle backrubs.

The legs on the seventh segment of male millipedes are replaced by reproductive organs called gonopods.

The simple eyes on the head of millipedes are called ocelli.

How many legs do millipedes have?

Millipedes do not have 1000 legs but each segment has two pairs. The number of legs can reach up to 750.

What do millipedes do when threatened?

Millipedes cannot outrun predators and either curl into a ball or release a stinky liquid when they feel attacked. They are not particularly harmful to humans and cannot kill you.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Millipede coloring pages.

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