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What do they look like?

These invertebrates have long thin bodies made of many segments, protected by an exoskeleton. Each segment has two pairs of legs. They have a pair of antennae on their head, and chewing mouthparts. Most have glands along their body that make toxic compounds to discourage predators. Most millipedes are darkly colored, but some very toxic ones are bright.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike

Where do they live?

Millipedes are found all over the world, and are most diverse in the humid tropical regions.

What kind of habitat do they need?

Millipedes live on land, but they need to live in moist places, and most live in forested areas (though there are plenty in grasslands and other habitats too)

How do they grow?

Millipedes don't change their structure much as they grow. Babies look like small adults. As they grow they shed their exoskeleton to make more room.

How do they behave?

Millipedes are not usually social. They become active when it is not to bright or dry.

How do they communicate with each other?

Millipedes have very poor vision. They probably communicate with touch and smell. A few species glow in the dark, probably to warn predators that they are poisonous.

What do they eat?

Millipedes eat dead plant material. They have bacteria and other microbes in their digestive system that helps them break down the dead leaves and other foods they eat. They sometimes eat the dung of herbivores.

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Millipedes can't run fast, so they have protection. They curl up to protect their legs, and they give off toxic chemicals to poison their predators or at least taste bad.

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

Millipedes can be important decomposers, especially in tropical forests.



Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map


living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends.


helps break down and decompose dead plants and/or animals


mid-altitude coastal areas with mild, rainy winters and long, dry summers. Dominant plant types are dense, evergreen shrubs.


active at dawn and dusk

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


union of egg and spermatozoan


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males


marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


development takes place in an unfertilized egg


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Climbing plants are also abundant. There is plenty of moisture and rain, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


this biome is characterized by large expanses of coniferous forest, there is an extended cold season and heavy snowfall.


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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. "Diplopoda" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 19, 2014 at

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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