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Insects and other arthropods

Myriapods

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In milliipedes, the majority of segments bears two pairs of legs.
Photo: Insectarium de Montréal (Claude Pilon)

Myriapods are arthropods with long bodies. Their heads have antennae and their bodies are segmented, with a pair or two of legs on each segment. This order includes millipedes (Diplopods) and centipedes (Chilopodes).

What’s the difference between millipedes and centipedes?

Millipedes have a cylindrical, segmented body. There are two pairs of short legs on each segment. Despite their common name, millipedes do not have more than 750 legs. They are usually dark coloured. The majority of these detrivorous animals feed on plant debris and are harmless. They live under leaves, rocks and the trunks of rotting trees.

Centipedes also have segmented bodies, but they are flatter and have only one pair of legs per segment. Centipedes have long, strong legs, which enable them to move around quickly. The number of legs varies greatly, from 30 to more than 350. Like millipedes, centipedes like humid places and are frequently found in gardens. The fastest species of centipedes are the ones with the fewest legs.

Centipedes are active predators with venom-filled hooks called forcipula that they use to paralyze their prey. Located under the body, these modified legs cover the mouthparts. Venom flows out of the tip of the hook to paralyze the centipede’s prey. The venom contains many active ingredients, including histamine and acetylcholine. There are also a number of enzymes, some of which are responsible for the pain caused when the venom is injected.

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