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How many legs does a millipede have?

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Millipedes are known for their numerous legs. How many legs do these arthropods have? one thousand? The truth is, no millipede with so many legs has ever been found. There are about 12,000 species, divided into 16 orders and 140 families. Such wide diversity can only mean one thing: a large number of different traits, including the number of legs.

Millipedes have some of the most legged creatures in the animal kingdom, which makes them similar to centipedes, but not identical. One of the main differences between the two myriads is the number of legs that nature has endowed them with.

So how many legs does a millipede have? Millipedes have four legs per segment, while centipedes only have two. The number of legs a millipede has depends on the species it belongs to. Despite some similarities between them, millipedes are not insects. Although both these organisms belong to the phylum Arthropoda and are arthropods, therefore, millipedes belong to the subphylum Myriapoda while insects belong to the subphylum Hexapod . The latter has only six legs, while the former has hundreds of legs.

How many legs does a millipede have

largest millipede giant americanus
Most millipedes have about 300 legs.

©Gerry Bishop/Shutterstock.com

The number of legs in millipedes varies from species to species. Millipedes have four pairs of legs per segment, and the number of segments per species ranges from about 25 to 100. Most millipedes have 300 legs, sometimes more. The millipede species with the most legs is Illacme plenipes , which has been recorded with as many as 750 legs.

Millipede species with the most legs: Illacme plenipes

Illacme plenipes is the millipede with the most legs and is the closest to reaching the 1,000-legged milestone.

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How many legs do millipedes belonging to this subgroup have? On average there are about 600 legs, but like other millipede species, their number can vary. The average number of legs in this species is twice the average for other species. They were first discovered in 1926, but have never been found again. It will take another 80 years for the species to be rediscovered.

This is Illacme plenipes, a very small millipede with a maximum length of about 3 cm. Still, it had the most legs of any known animal, with a total of 750. pic.twitter.com/643Sp2HVKT

— Gemmabee 🦔 (@bipbopbap) August 10, 2020

Illacme plenipes had as many as 750 legs.

This species belongs to the genus Illacme , the only other species in this genus is Illacme tobini . Although they have more legs than other species, they are relatively small compared to other millipedes. A millipede's number of legs will depend on its number of segments, not its body length. Illacme plenipes only grow to about 3 cm and are pale yellow in color.

The species was first discovered near San Bernardino, California. There are approximately 1,400 different species of millipedes in the United States and Canada. New millipede species are constantly being discovered, leading to the belief that a species with as many as 1,000 legs will be unearthed.

Why do millipedes have so many legs

Largest Millipede - Close Up Of A Millipede
The legs of millipedes help them eat decaying matter and balance in the soil.

©Piyapong pc/Shutterstock.com

The millipede's legs give the animals their distinctive appearance, but also give them many advantages. Millipedes are land animals that feed on dead leaves and decaying matter. Legs help them navigate and move across floors filled with natural debris. Soil-dense habitats will be more difficult to traverse if millipedes don't have many legs.

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Millipedes move through the soil, but also burrow beneath it. Their legs help them push their slender bodies through dirt, or gain leverage when entering tight spaces. Millipedes' numerous legs make them one of the most efficient travelers across forest floors.

Millipedes are born with just a few legs and grow more as they age. When they shed their exoskeletons, they replace them with new skeletons through a process called molting. After each molt, they grow a new segment and thus another pair of quadrupeds. Centipedes go through this process, but only grow two legs from each segment. This means that the number of legs a millipede will have depends on its species type and age. Some stop molting at a certain point; others go through the process their entire lives, but only for a short period of time.


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Siamese spiny-tailed millipede, isolated on white background.

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about the author

Emilio Brown

Spiders, snakes, and lizards are some of my favorite types of animals, and I love keeping a few species as pets. I love learning about all the wonders nature has to offer and have been a writer for 5 years. In my spare time, you will find me walking into nature.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Are millipedes insects?

Millipedes are not insects but belong to the phylum Arthropoda. This phylum includes the insects, crustaceans, arachnids and myriapods subphylum. Millipedes are multi-legged animals and there are more than 13,000 species of animals found, most of which are centipedes and millipedes.

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Is it safe to pick up millipedes?

Millipedes don't bite, but you still need to be careful when picking one up. Most species have glands that release stimulants. This liquid can smell and can cause an allergic reaction. They only do this when frightened, so they can be dealt with when they calm down.

What is the difference between Pill Bug (Roly Poly) and Pill Millipede?

Pill worms (Oniscidea) and pill millipedes (Oniscomorpha) are very similar, but only pill millipedes are classified as myriapods. Pillbugs look very similar to small millipedes, but they are actually crustaceans. The similarity between these two species is an example of convergent evolution.

Can humans eat millipedes?

Millipedes are not edible, as most species are poisonous when eaten. They do have natural enemies such as toads, birds, ants and beetles. In Africa, the Popo tribe is a society where eating millipedes is common. The toxic secretions of millipedes are no more common reason for this practice, but they can be prepared and eaten safely by millipedes.

Can Millipedes Make Good Pets?

Millipedes are fairly low-maintenance pets. Giant millipedes are some of the largest species and the easiest to keep for beginners. They require minimal maintenance and less work than animals such as dogs, cats or birds. All you need is a terrarium designed to mimic their habitat in which to keep them. Feeding them regularly and maintaining their environment will allow them to live a long and healthy life.

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