Centipedes and Millipedes: Subphylum Myriapoda

Centipedes and millipedes are myriapods, meaning 'many pairs of legs'. They are not insects as they have more than six legs, but the names centipede meaning 100 legs and millipede meaning 1,000 legs is a bit misleading. For a start, the number of pairs of legs in centipedes is always an odd number and the known range is between 15 and 191 pairs.

All centipedes and millipedes:

  • are terrestrial
  • have a segmented body
  • have one pair of antennae
  • have breathing holes called spiracles.

The diversity of centipedes and millipedes in Sydney is greatest in forest areas. Leaf litter, soil and the underside of logs are their preferred habitats.

Centipedes and millipedes differ in a number of ways, including the following:

  • Centipedes have one pair of legs per segment; millipedes have two per segment.
  • Centipedes have the first pair of legs behind the head modified into a pair of fangs containing a poison gland; millipedes do not.
  • Centipedes are carnivores; millipedes are herbivores or detritivores (feed on decaying vegetation).
  • Many centipedes guard their eggs and young by curling around them, while millipedes protect their eggs from predators in a nest of hard soil. Only a few millipede species are known to brood their eggs.

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