Q:

What are the characteristics of a millipede?

A:

Quick Answer

Millipedes are arthropods of the class Diplopoda, meaning double foot. Millipedes possess elongated, segmented bodies with two leg pairs per segment. These arthropods are detritivores that feed on decomposing organic material.

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Full Answer

Millipedes have long bodies with short antennae and short legs that are vertically in line with their bodies. This compact body shape enables them to plow through soil and detritus. Most millipedes are largely black, dark brown or grey with bolder shades of red, purple or yellow on their segments and legs. Small holes, or spiracles, on each segment allow them to breathe; millipede spiracles are most efficient in moist environments.

Millipedes inhabit nearly every habitat that includes dark, moist areas. They are commonly found under logs, in leaf litter and in compost. These areas provide a rich supply of decaying organic material – a millipede's primary food source. As detritivores, millipedes help to break down nutrients such as nitrogen and return them to the soil.

Millipedes are not capable of biting in defense. Instead, they cope with threats by curling into a ball and secreting toxic or unpalatable substances through their exoskeletons. The secretions of a few species contain cyanide and several tropical millipedes can even project toxin at a predator's eyes.

Millipedes are often confused with centipedes because of their overall shape and number of legs. However, millipedes always have two leg pairs per segment, while centipedes only have one. Further, centipedes are venomous and capable of delivering a sometimes painful bite.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What do millipedes eat?

    A:

    Millipedes eat decaying plant materials and wood particles, and they sometimes eat decayed animals like insects, earthworms and snails. If their habitats dry out, millipedes tend to invade living plants to get moisture. They help to play an important role of putting back nutrients to the soil to be used by plants.

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  • Q:

    Where do millipedes live?

    A:

    Millipedes live all over Earth, but are most abundant in regions that are humid and tropical. Millipedes thrive best in regions that have moist soil, and they are typically found in terrestrial, grassland and temperate habitats. They can be found living in high altitude mountains and may even live in swamps or marshes.

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  • Q:

    What is the life cycle of a millipede?

    A:

    A female millipede lays eggs inside a nest underground where they undergo an incomplete metamorphosis. Once the eggs hatch, the baby millipedes remain in the nest until they molt at least once. The millipedes gain new body segments each time they molt until reaching adulthood in 2 to 5 years.

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  • Q:

    What do scorpions eat?

    A:

    Scorpions feed primarily on small arthropods, insects and other scorpions, although some large species have been known to prey on mice and small lizards. Like spiders, scorpions are carnivorous arachnids. They feed opportunistically, meaning their diet changes according to what is available in a given place.

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