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Millipedes Meandering

6-16-17 millipede IMG_0682

How do you distinguish a millipede from a centipede – both multi-segmented arthropods that have a lot of legs? Although there are many less obvious differences, centipede bodies are relatively flexible and they have one pair of legs per body segment. Most of a millipede’s segments have two legs, and their tubular body is quite rigid.

Depending on the species, millipedes have between 80 and 750 legs, with most having fewer than 100, but they didn’t start out their lives with this way. When they hatch, millipedes only have three pairs of legs; every time they molt, they add more body segments and legs. When threatened, millipedes quickly coil their body into a spiral, protecting their legs and fragile underbody with their armor-like body plates (tergites).

If you come across a millipede, know that you’re looking at one of the earliest animals to breathe air and make the move from water to land. Pneumodesmus newmani, a fossil found in Scotland, dates back 428 million years and is the oldest fossil specimen with spiracles for breathing air.

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8 responses

  1. roberthargraves

    Most of a millipede’s segments have two PAIRS OF legs ?

    Robert Hargraves Founder ThorCon International

    Powering Up Our World

    Author THORIUM: energy cheaper than coal Facebook facebook.com/ThoriumEnergyCheaperThanCoal/

    June 16, 2017 at 8:38 am

    • Yes, two pairs! Look at the inset photo and you’ll see the legs are clustered 2×2 (a pair on each side).

      June 16, 2017 at 1:13 pm

  2. Alice Pratt

    That’s a lot of legs to keep track of! Good thing they are barefoot!

    June 16, 2017 at 8:46 am

  3. I found very large millipedes in Holderness, N.H.; Maybe 1/4″ x 3″ or 4″ long! I guess they can get larger in other parts of the world?

    June 16, 2017 at 9:07 am

  4. Jennifer Peterson

    Back in the day, 300 mya, there was an 8.5 foot long millipede. Pretty cool.

    June 16, 2017 at 9:20 am

  5. Kathryn

    Beautiful creatures! And so talented to walk with all those legs.

    June 16, 2017 at 10:47 am

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