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Meet the Millipedes and Centipedes

Class Diplopoda – Millipedes have been divided into 14 separate Orders.

Class Chilopoda – Centipedes number more than 1,500 species and have been divided into just 5 Orders.

  • Polyxenida
  • Glomeridesmida
  • Geophilomorpha
  • Sphaerotheriida
  • Craterostigmomorpha
  • Glomerida
  • Lithobiomorpha
  • Siphoniulida
  • Scutigeromorpha
  • Siphonophorida
  • Platydesmida
  • Polyzoniida
  • Stemmiulida
  • Callipodida
  • Chordeumatida
  • Polydesmida
  • Spirobolida
  • Julida

Here are some of our favorite millipedes and centipedes:

Class Diplopoda: Order Spirostreptida

  • African Giant Millipede (Archispirostreptus gigas)


Photo by Jason Diltz

African giant millipedes represent some of the largest millipedes in the world; the largest specimen documented measured 12 inches in length. Millipedes are scavengers and play an important role in recycling dead leaves and other decaying organic matter.

  • Range: West Africa
  • Habitat: Tropical and subtropical rainforest
  • Adult Lifespan: 3+ years
  • Food: Decaying wood and plant material
  • Desert Millipede (Orthoporus ornatus)

Desert millipedes are nocturnal and spend most of their time in burrows that they can dig themselves. When they are threatened, millipedes curl into a tight spiral and emit a noxious fluid from glands at the base of their legs. This fluid can cause a reaction in people who are allergic, but for the most part is not harmful to humans. The fluid will, however, kill other invertebrates, depending on the species.

  • Range: Desert Southwestern U. S.
  • Habitat: Dry grasslands
  • Adult Lifespan: 10 years
  • Food: Decaying organic material and occasionally live plants

 

Class Chilopoda: Order Scolopendromorpha

  • Giant Sonoran Centipede (Scolopendra heros arizonensis)

Giant Sonoran centipedes are known to be quick and agile, and have two large claws located near their head. The claws are actually modified legs attached to the first body segment, and have venom glands at the base of the claw. Centipedes immobilize their prey with these pinching claws and by injecting their venom. Although they live in the desert, they require a high degree of moisture because of their fairly soft chitin exoskeleton.

  • Range: Desert Southwestern U. S. and into Mexico
  • Habitat: Dry grasslands
  • Adult Lifespan: 3 years
  • Food: Small insects and sometimes fruits
  • Giant Vietnamese Centipede (Scolopendra subspinipes)

The Vietnamese centipede is found throughout the world’s tropical and subtropical regions. Juvenile and adult centipedes live alone and are most active at night. During the day they can be found in damp, dark places; under leaf litter, rocks, and logs, and in soil crevices.

  • Range: Southeast Asia
  • Habitat: Tropical and subtropical regions
  • Adult Lifespan: 10 years
  • Food: Arthropods of all sizes, small mammals and lizards


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