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Difference Between Centipedes and Millipedes

Difference Between Centipedes and Millipedes

Do centipedes and millipedes appear the same to you? Do you find it difficult to tell one from the other? Well, then you have certainly landed up on the right page! This article, which explains the difference between centipedes and millipedes, will make things easier for you.
Mukulika Mukherjee
Millipede On Dry Leaves
Centipedes and millipedes belong to the phylum Arthropoda and subphylum Myriapoda. As members of the phylum Arthropoda, which is the largest phylum of invertebrates, they have jointed legs and a segmented body that is covered by an exoskeleton. While a large number of species under this phylum are insects (they belong to the subphylum Insecta), there are three more subphylums of organisms that come under phylum Arthropoda: Arachnida (spiders, mites, ticks and scorpions), Crustacea (crabs, lobsters, shrimps, etc.) and Myriapoda (centipedes and millipedes). As they belong to the same subphylum, centipedes and millipedes have a lot in common and this makes it difficult for us to distinguish between them. However, because of the fact that they belong to different classes, they are also different in many aspects. But to be able to tell the difference between millipedes and centipedes, you need to know how they are different, in the first place.

Centipedes and Millipedes: How are they Different
Centipedes belong to the class Chilopoda and millipedes belong to the class Diplopoda. At the first glance, both these creatures may appear similar to you, but look carefully and you shall find that they are indeed different. The table given below enlists the differences between the two.

Centipede Millipede
1. The body of a centipede is flat in shape.

2. Centipedes are mostly 4-5 inches long. However, certain giant species can measure up to 8-12 inches in length.

3. Centipedes are yellowish-gray to brown in color.

4. The average number of legs in a centipede is 40. Certain giant species can be found with as many as 300 legs.

5. The body of a centipede is divided into 15 to 100 segments.

6. Centipedes have long legs that extend sideways from their body.

7. Centipedes have long antennae on the top of their head.

8. Centipedes have one pair of legs per body segment.
1. The body of a millipede is mostly cylindrical in shape.

2. The length of an adult millipede can vary from 1 inch to 8 inches. The giant African millipede (Archispirostreptus gigas) is 15 inches long.

3. Millipedes are dark reddish-brown to black in color.

4. Most species of millipedes have 300 legs. However, the African giant millipede can have as many as 700 legs!

5. Millipedes can have anything between 11 to 150 segments.

6. Millipedes have short legs that do not extend from their body.

7. Millipedes have short antennae.

8. Millipedes have two pairs of legs per body segment, one pair on each side. This is the most striking characteristic that differentiates a centipede from a millipede. However, it is important to note that each of the first three segments of their body, have only one leg on each side.
1. Centipedes move very fast.

2. Centipedes have a flexible body.

3. Centipedes tread forward using their legs, to move swiftly.
1. Millipedes are slow-moving creatures.

2. The body of a millipede is not as flexible as that of a centipede.

3. Millipedes move forward by moving their tiny legs in a wave-like pattern that propels them forward.
Feeding Habits
1. Centipedes are carnivorous and feed on small organisms.

2. House centipedes, a species found in buildings, feed on cockroaches, ants and other insects, and hence are beneficial.
1. Millipedes are scavengers that feed on decomposing organic matter.

2. Millipedes also feed on tender shoots and thus too many of these creatures in your garden, can cause damage to seedlings and young plants.
Defence Mechanism
1. Centipedes are equipped with poison glands to attack and kill their prey. However, their bite is rarely fatal to humans.

2. The legs located on the first segment below the mouth of a centipede, are modified into "forcipules" that are used to inject poison.
1. Millipedes do not possess poison glands. They curl their body and squirt a foul-smelling, corrosive liquid when threatened.

2. Millipedes do not have any modified appendages for defensive purposes.
Life Cycle
1. Centipedes do not reproduce by mating or copulation. Instead, the male centipede deposits spermatophores (bundles of sperms) and the female is meant to engulf the spermatophore, on finding it.

2. The female lays around 50 eggs, after a period of few months.

3. The females of most species of centipedes protect their eggs and nurse their offspring till they can fend for themselves.
1. Millipedes reproduce by mating, whereby the sperms of the male are deposited within the female.

2. The female millipede can lay up to 300 eggs at a time, after a few months.

3. The females of most species of millipedes do not take care of their eggs.

This was just a brief look at the major differences between centipedes and millipedes. However, there are several facts about centipedes and millipedes that show the similarity between these organisms, both of which belong to the family of arthropods. So, the next time you spot a wriggly creature that you think might be a millipede or a centipede, just consider the points we discussed. After all, identifying these organisms isn't supposed to be that difficult, is it?