Nature on our doorsteps: How many legs?
Millipedes are important recyclers of dead leaves and organic matter

Nature on our doorsteps: How many legs?

Millipedes and centipedes are members of the largest and most successful grouping of animals in the world, the Arthropods.

This grouping also includes insects, spiders, crabs and lobsters.

All these creatures are grouped together because they have an external hardened skin (exoskeleton) instead of an internal skeleton.

To grow, they must shed their external skin and grow a new one.

They all have jointed legs, and their bodies are made up of different segments.

Both centipedes and millipedes have one pair of antennae on their heads and each of their body segments have true, jointed legs attached.

Centipedes eat spiders, slugs and worms

They both breathe through tiny holes on the sides of their bodies.

One difference between them, however, is that millipedes have two pairs of legs on each segment while centipedes have just one pair.

The name ‘centipede’ implies a hundred legs, while ‘millipede’ suggests a thousand. These names, however, are very general.

They simply reflect the fact that because millipedes tend to have many more segments in their bodies than centipedes, and because each segment of the millipede has two pairs of legs, then millipedes are likely to have many more legs than a centipede.

The exact number of legs will vary between the different species of millipede or centipede, but so far, science has not recorded any with a thousand legs!

By Rosaleen Dwyer

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