Friday 11 October 2013


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What is the difference between these two creepy crawlies?  

They both have legs.  Lots of them.  A centipede has one hundred and a millipede has one thousand hence the names…………. er, maybe not quite that many legs apparently.   Less shoes required. 

Millipedes and centipedes both belong to the phylum  Arthropoda,  which is made up of invertebrate animals that have a segmented body, an exoskeleton and jointed appendages.   However there are some some key differences that will help you to distinguish between a centipede and a millipede.   


Centipedes belong to the Diplopoda family, subphylum mirapoda  (originating from the Greek for lip foot) .   Their bodies are made up of many flattened segments.  A centipede has one pair of legs per segment.  They have between under 20 legs to over 300.  

Their legs are longer  than those of a millipede and  are held out to the side  which positions their body low to the ground. The last legs are held behind the body and not used for walking.   They are capable of moving rapidly.  

They do not have any legs on the first segment (behind the head)  as these have become fangs that contain venom.   This venom can be very harmful to small children and people who suffer an allergic reaction.  

Centipedes are much flatter than millipedes and have well developed antennae on their head  which are much larger than those belonging to millipedes.  They are primarily carnivorous.


Millipedes belong to the Chilopoda family  (originating from the Greek words for double foot) .  Their bodies are made up of many flattened segments.  Each segment consists of two single segments fused together so they have two pairs of legs per segment,  with the exception of the first three and the last segment which bears only one pair of legs. They often have between 100 and 400 legs. 

They have short legs which are held beneath them resulting in the body being held high off the ground.  They move fast in a wave like movement  and in a much slower way than centipedes . 

Male millipedes ave modified legs on their 7thbody segment called gonapods.  Like most arthropods millipedes malt as they grow, and the number of body segments increases with each malt.  

Millipedes  do not bite but can secrete  an irritating liquid from pores on their bodies which can be harmful if it comes in contact with your eyes or mouth.   Their bodies are more rounded than centipedes and are long and cylindrical in appearance.  They are detrivores, eating detritus   (decaying plant and  animal matter).

The largest millipede is the giant African millipede Archispirostreptus gigas which grow up to 30 cm long and can live for 7 years. 

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