How Many Legs Do Millipedes Have?

How Many Legs Do Millipedes Have?
Millipedes are renowned for their legs. The tiny creatures have so many legs that they’re actually named for that trait. Millipede, translated to English, means “a thousand feet”. Millipedes clearly have a lot of legs. But just how many legs do millipedes have? The short answer is that the average millipede has about 90 legs.

But there’s a large amount of variation on a species by species basis. Different millipede species can have as few as 34 legs or as many as 750.

The 750 legged variety of millipede, called illacme plenipes, has more legs than any other living being.

What Do Millipedes Eat?

Why Do Millipedes Have So Many Legs?

Of course knowing how many legs a millipede has raises another important question. Why do millipedes have so many legs compared to other species? We can see part of the answer by noting a repeating pattern along the millipede’s body.

A millipede’s body has a large number of repeating segments. This is a common trait of their larger family group, called a phylum. Millipedes belong to the arthropod phylum. This phylum includes scorpions, spiders and even lobsters. All arthropods have segmented bodies. But a millipede takes this trait to an extreme.

Millipedes have a large number of segments in comparison to most other arthropods. Each segment is largely the same as the one before and after it. And most importantly to our question, each segment has two pairs of legs instead of the single pair of most arthropods.

A millipede’s unique segment repetition doubles the number of legs which we’d expect to see. This is also why a millipede has so many legs in comparison to their cousin the centipede. Centipedes have a similar repetition of their body’s segments. However, a centipede only has one pair of legs per segment instead of the two pairs found on a millipede.

Millipedes also get a lot of use from their multitude of legs. The species largely survives as a scavenger which loves to eat decaying plant matter. We can thank millipedes for their help in keeping forests and parks free from dead leaves. The little creatures use their powerful legs to scamper through soil and over wet foliage to help recycle plant matter.

 

How Long Can a Millipede Get?

You might wonder why millipedes aren’t more readily apparent in the world. Why don’t we see such an important part of the ecosystem more often? The main reason is that millipedes are typically quite small. The average millipede is a little under an inch long. However, the largest millipede species can grow to be 15 inches in length.

15 inches might seem huge at first. However, ancient millipedes were able to grow even larger. An ancient species of millipede called Arthropleura could grow as long as six feet in length. The ancient arthropod’s width is equally impressive. Arthropleura could have a width of up to 1.5 feet.

Are Millipedes Harmful?

Are Millipedes Harmful?

Millipedes might seem scary at first glance. However, the animals are actually gentle plant eaters which pose no risks to humans. In fact we should be happy to see millipedes in an area since they help to break down plant matter. This is especially true for people who have a home composting pile.

 

Millipedes Vs Centipedes

People are usually surprised to find that millipedes are peaceful creatures. This is often due to confusion between millipedes and centipedes. The two species are closely related. However, centipedes are carnivores. A centipede will sometimes even sting humans.

The main visual difference between millipedes and centipedes can be seen in their legs. A millipede has two sets of legs per segment. While a centipede only has one pair of legs on each of its segments.

 

Do Millipedes Legs Grow Back?

When we asked how many legs do millipedes have the answer didn’t factor injuries into the discussion. This might seem like an oversight. Surely a creature with so many delicate legs must lose a lot of them over time. And there is some truth to that idea. Millipedes will commonly lose legs to accidents or attacks. But thankfully for millipedes they’re able to regrow those legs over time.

 

What Do Millipedes Eat?

Of course millipedes will need to stay fed and properly hydrated in order for legs to grow back. Thankfully this is usually a fairly easy task for most millipedes. Millipedes will eat almost any plant matter which has started to decompose.

Millipedes vastly prefer rotting wet plants over dry plants though. This is because millipedes usually get most of their water from their food. If deprived of rotting vegetable matter millipedes will begin to nibble on living plants to stay hydrated.