Myriapods are incredibly diverse, with over 12,000 species. They range in size from the world’s tiniest millipede (just 0.1 mm long!) to the African Giant Black Millipede, which can grow up to 11 inches long! As well as belonging to different sizes, myriapods also come in a wide variety of shapes and colors. Many are brightly colored, while others are dull or patterned in shades of brown, black, and grey. In this article, we’ll discuss 9 examples of myriapods in depth.
What is a myriapod?
Myriapods are a type of arthropod related to insects and spiders. They have long bodies consisting of many segments and at least one pair of jointed legs per segment. The word ‘myriapod’ translates to ‘many feet’. Myriapods include millipedes, centipedes, and the little-known symphylans and pauropods.
They are found in a variety of habitats all over the world, from wet tropical forests to desert areas. Many myriapods are decomposers, helping break down organic matter into nutrients that can be reused by other living things, and often play a vital role in their respective ecosystems.
9 Examples of Myriapods
1. Amazonian giant centipede
Scientific name: Scolopendra gigantean
These large centipedes are found in the tropical regions of South America. It is one of the largest centipedes in the world, with an average length of 20 centimeters (8 inches). It is reddish-brown in color and has a flat, segmented body and several pairs of legs.
The Amazonian giant centipede is a highly adapted predator. Its long antennae can detect movement from up to 20 feet away and its hard exoskeleton helps protect it from predators. It has powerful venom glands at the base of its legs which can paralyze or even kill its prey, making it an incredibly effective hunter.
2. American giant millipede
Scientific name: Narceus americanus
The American giant millipede is among the largest species in North America, reaching lengths up to 40 centimeters. They are found in wet woodlands and grasslands from southern Canada to northern Florida and west to Wisconsin and Texas. These millipedes have a dark reddish-brown body with orange-red stripes and red legs.
They feed on dead or decaying plants and animals, as well as fungi. American giant millipedes are active at night and spend most of the day in underground burrows. They may also live in termite mounds or under logs during drier conditions.
These millipedes are important predators of soil insects, helping to maintain the balance of organisms in their environment. They also play a role in decomposition and nutrient cycling, which helps to keep soils healthy.
3. Garden symphylan
Scientific name: Scutigerella immaculata
One of the most commonly found species in gardens and other cultivated areas around the world is the Garden symphylan. As with many species in this group, it has a segmented body composed of numerous small segments, each with two pairs of legs.
It has a flattened appearance, with the head and thorax being longer than the abdomen, which is often divided into two parts. Its color can vary from yellowish-brown to dark brown depending on its habitat and diet.
4. Brown centipede
Scientific name: Lithobius forficatus
The brown centipede, also known as the common centipede, is found throughout North America. This centipede is usually brown in color with lighter yellowish-brown legs and stripes running along its body.
It grows up to 2 inches long and has 15 pairs of legs. The brown centipede is a predator, feeding mainly on other invertebrates such as insects and spiders. It can also use its venomous fangs to capture and immobilize prey.
The brown centipede is active during the night when it is cooler outside and more food sources are available. They live in dark, moist places like logs, rocks, or in leaf litter.
The brown centipede is an important part of the food web as it helps to control insect and spider populations. It can also be beneficial in controlling pests in gardens, helping to keep plants healthy.
5. Pill millipede
Scientific name: Glomeris marginata
Also known as the Common Pill Bug or Roly-Poly, is the pill millipede. It’s a small, oval-shaped creature that resembles a woodlouse but with many more legs.
Like other millipedes, it has two pairs of legs per segment on its body and grows up to about two centimeters long. It is usually dark brown or black in color, and can often be found under logs or stones, where it lives on decaying vegetation.
Pill millipedes are unique among millipedes in that they curl up into a tight ‘ball’ when disturbed, protecting their softer undersides from predators. This behavior is the origin of its common name ‘Pill Bug’.
Unlike other millipedes, Pill millipedes are not poisonous and do not produce any noxious substances when threatened. For this reason, they are considered harmless to humans and can often be handled without fear of being bitten or stung.
6. Coastal centipede
Scientific name: Strigamia maritima
The coastal centipede is found on the shores and beaches of the UK and Ireland. It is a carnivore, feeding on small invertebrates such as worms, flies, and beetles. Its body is divided into many segments, each segment having one pair of legs.
It can reach up to 4 cm in length and has a yellow-brown body color with darker markings. This species is nocturnal, so it can often be found under rocks and logs near the shore during the evenings and nighttime. The coastal centipede is a unique species in the UK that plays an important role in its environment by helping to keep populations of other invertebrates under control.
7. Soil centipede
Scientific name: Geophilus electricus
This one is found in the soils of Europe and North America. It’s a small creature, reaching up to 7 mm in length, and has 15 pairs of legs. Its body color can range from yellow-brown to dark brown and it often has darker stripes running along its body.
The soil centipede feeds mainly on insect larvae and earthworms. It has venomous fangs to assist it in capturing prey.
They live in a variety of habitats, including gardens, fields, and forests where there is plenty of food available. The soil centipede plays an important role in maintaining soil health by helping to break down organic matter and recycle nutrients.
8. Yellow-spotted millipede
Scientific name: Harpaphe haydeniana
The yellow-spotted millipede is found in coastal regions, mainly along the Pacific Coast of the United States. It is an elongated creature with 31 pairs of legs on mature females and 30 pairs on mature males. The last pair in males has evolved to be a gonadal structure.
The yellow-spotted millipede is a herbivore, feeding on decaying leaves, fungi, and other plant matter found in the soils of its habitat. It is an important member of the food web of tropical forests, breaking down organic material that can be recycled back into nutrients for other organisms.
It plays a key role in maintaining the delicate balance of life in tropical forests. The yellow-spotted millipede is nocturnal and typically spends its days hiding under rocks, logs, and other objects in its habitat.
9. House centipedes
Scientific name: Scutigera coleoptrata
House centipedes can be found all over the world. They have long cylindrical bodies with 15 pairs of legs and vary in color from yellowish-gray to dark brown. They are nocturnal, so they can usually be seen scurrying around at night in search of their prey.
House centipedes are beneficial to have around as they feed mainly on insects such as cockroaches, mosquitoes, and spiders. They also help to keep other insect populations down. However, they can become bothersome if they find their way indoors.