Like centipedes, millipedes have bodies that are made up of numerous segments. The first four thoracic segments each bear a single pair of legs, but the following abdominal segments all have two pairs. Millipedes lack poisonous fangs and do not bite; rather, to discourage predators they roll into a defensive ball and many emit poisonous or foul-smelling substances.

Most of the approximately 8000 species of millipedes are herbivores or scavengers, living primarily on decaying plant and animal matter in moist microhabitats. Some species are adept and powerful burrowers. Like centipedes, female millipedes lay eggs in nests, which are often carefully guarded. Newly hatched millipedes usually have only 3 pairs of legs, adding legs and body segments with each molt as they grow.


  • Hickman, C.P. and L. S. Roberts. 1994. Animal Diversity. Wm. C. Brown, Dubuque, IA.
  • Brusca, R. C., and G. J. Brusca. Invertebrates. 1990. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA.
  • Pearse, V., J. Pearse, M. Buchsbaum, and R. Buchsbaum. 1987. Living Invertebrates. Blackwell Scientific Publications, Palo Alto, Ca.


Phil Myers (author), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.