It’s been a buggy summer here at Caterpickles. I’ve tried to distract The Eight-Year-Old with art, but she keeps coming back to bugs. As you may recall, so far this summer we’ve learned that:
- Very few (if any) centipedes have exactly 100 legs. Most have between 30 and 354. Since my original post on centipedes, I’ve learned courtesy of Wikipedia that in fact no centipedes have exactly 100 legs. Except for that one species that boasts 48 pairs of legs (96 legs), centipedes always have an odd number of leg pairs. (Although I suppose it’s possible that a centipede with 51 or more pairs of legs could lose some to injury and have 100 legs while they are waiting for the extras to grow back.)
- No millipedes have 1000 legs. Most of them have between 34 and 400 legs, with one over-performing species sprouting up to 750 legs.
Which left The Eight-Year-Old with a third question: If centipedes and millipedes can have the same number of legs, what’s the difference between them?
I’ll be honest. I didn’t really want to go into great detail on this answer. So I’m just going to give you the highlights.
Centipedes eat meat, most millipedes eat decaying plants
Centipedes are carnivores. Most eat spiders and other small invertebrates. One species, the Amazonian giant centipede, which can grow to 30 cm in length, has been known to eat bats, mice, lizards, and frogs, as well as spiders.
Millipedes on the other hand, eat decaying leaves and other dead plant matter. Very few are predatory.
Centipedes have fangs, millipedes don’t
Because they are predators, centipedes are equipped with venomous fangs, which they use to paralyze their prey.
Millipedes have a more peaceful lifestyle. Although millipedes can wreak havoc in a greenhouse, their plant-loving nature means they can get away with simply oozing noxious chemicals from their pores when they need to defend themselves.
Centipedes are fast, millipedes are slow
Again, because centipedes prey on live things, they move quickly. A millipede’s favorite plant-based snack doesn’t typically get up and run away at the sight of them, so millipedes are relatively slow.
Centipedes have one pair of legs per body segment, millipedes have two
Those horrors aside, the main difference between centipedes and millipedes is the number of feet they have per body segment. Centipedes have one pair of legs per body segment. Millipedes have two pairs of jointed legs on most of their body segments.
And once again, that’s about all I can take of that.
- “Do centipedes really have 100 legs?” (Caterpickles)
- “Do millipedes really have a million legs?” (Caterpickles)