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Kids' Inquiry of Diverse Species

Local animals in this group:

millipedes, centipedes, and relatives


The Myriapods are centipedes and millipedes , and some small relatives. Centipedes and millipedes look similar to each other; they both look a little like worms with lots of legs. Actually they are arthropods, they have a tough exoskeleton and jointed legs, and they are related to insects and crustaceans. Like insects, myriapods have one pair of antennae, but they have many more legs than insects do. In Michigan, all myriapods have more than 20 legs, and all the other arthropods have fewer legs than that (most have only 6 or 8 legs).

Millipedes usually have round bodies, and have two pairs of legs on each body segment. They move slowly and often tunnel into soil and dead leaves. Nearly all millipede species are decomposers: they eat dead leaves, fungi, and detritus. If another animal threatens them, they may curl up, and some give off smelly toxic chemicals to protect themselves. Myriapods are an ancient group of animals, they were the the very first animals to live on land. Before them the only animals in the world lived in the sea.

Centipedes are usually flattened, and only have one pair of legs per segment. Centipedes are quick predators, eating any small animals they can catch. They have a venomous bite, but no Michigan species are dangerous to people.

Both centipedes and millipedes need a damp environment to survive, and mostly live on or under the ground.

University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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. "Myriapoda" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed May 20, 2024 at http://localhost:2015/accounts/Myriapoda/

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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