web analytics

Common Eastern Millipede up close

Posted on Jul 1, 2014

Millipedes don’t really have 1,000 legs, but rather are characterized by the fact that each of their body segment bears two pairs of extremities (versus a single pair per body segment in centipedes). This feature can be observed nicely in this close-up photograph of a common eastern millipede (Narceus americanus), a species found in wooded habitats throughout eastern and central U.S. With a total length of up to 4 inches this is an impressive invertebrate!

common eastern millipede (Narceus americanus)

Even though it is big, it is completely harmless. Unlike their centipede ‘cousins’, millipedes lack the modified jaw-like first pair of legs that predatory centipedes use to catch and sometimes envenomate their prey. Instead, millipedes defend themselves by rolling into a tight spiral and/or using chemical defenses. Worst case scenario, handling one of these beautiful ‘roly-poly-pedes’ might leave you with some orange-brown stains on your hands that won’t wash off. These chemical defenses may have a different effect on other potential predators, to human observers it serves as pretty innocuous way of indicating the millipede’s unease. Just place it carefully back on the forest floor watch it move away – without ever tripping over its own legs…

Photographed for the Meet Your Neighbours Global Biodiversity Project

Twan Leenders
President & Executive Director