Pill millipedes Click to enlarge image
Pill millipedes, Order Sphaerotheriida Image: Andrew Donnelly
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Order
    Sphaerotheriida
    Class
    Diplopoda
    Subphylum
    Uniramia
    Phylum
    Arthopoda
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    4 cm

Introduction

Pill millipedes are capable of rolling into perfect balls when disturbed. They may sometimes be confused with garden slaters but pill millipedes can tuck their head and legs in so they are entirely concealed, while slaters cannot.

Identification

Most millipedes are long and slender, but pill millipedes are short and stout with a covering of hard, shiny segments called tergites.

Habitat

Pill millipedes live in moist urban areas, forests and woodlands.

Distribution

Pill millipedes are found throughout the Southern Hemisphere (Northern Hemisphere pill millipedes belong to a different but related order, Glomerida).

Feeding and diet

Like most millipedes, pill millipedes are herbivorous, feeding on decomposing organic matter on the forest floor or among leaf litter.

Other behaviours and adaptations

Besides rolling into a ball, pill millipedes found in the northern hemisphere can also defend themselves with a chemical defence. Along their body are pores that release a smell that can kill or scare off other small creatures. To humans, the smell is similar to almonds, but to small creatures it is extremely toxic as it contains the chemical cyanide.