The most distinctive feature of both centipedes and millipedes is that they have many, many legs. Both bugs are arthropods belonging to the subphylum Myriapoda, a name that translates to ‘ten thousand feet.’ But how many legs do they have exactly, and why do they need so many?
Do millipedes have 1000 legs?
The Latin prefix of the name millipede (‘milli’) means ‘thousand’ and the suffix (‘ped’) translates as ‘foot.’ This has led to the popular and understandable misconception that millipedes have 1000 legs. In reality, they don’t have anywhere near as many. No known species of millipede can boast 1000 feet, and most common species have somewhere between 40 and 400 legs.
Do centipedes have 100 legs?
The word ‘centipede’ is derived from the Latin word ‘centipeda’ and literally means ‘100 feet.’ Like millipedes, however, their name is not a true indication of their leg number. The number of legs on a centipede varies from species to species, and each arthropod may have between 15 and 191 pairs (or up to 382 legs in total).
Why do millipedes and centipedes have so many legs?
Centipedes and millipedes are both known and named for their many legs, and no other known arthropod species are nearly as leggy as either of these bugs. But the questions remains – why do centipedes and millipedes need so many extra feet in the first place?
The answer is actually more to do with the anatomy of their bodies than their legs. Both arthropods have very long, heavily segmented bodies and each segment has legs attached. In the case of millipedes, this enables them to curl into a tight, armored coil at signs of danger, and it allows them to burrow their heads deep into leaf litter or soil when avoiding predators.
Centipedes are more aggressive than millipedes and use their many-legged agility to hunt down their prey.
Millipedes vs. Centipedes
Millipedes and centipedes are both long, segmented, leggy arthropods with a hard exoskeleton and a tendency to invade damp basements. However, these two bugs are far more different from one another than they first appear.
Millipedes have two pairs of legs on each of their body segments, but centipedes have only one.
The legs of centipedes stick out to either side of their body, whereas millipede legs tend to point downwards. Finally, centipedes always have an odd number of legs.
The behavior of millipedes is also very different from that of centipedes. Millipedes more much more slowly, and will curl into a tight, defensive ball if disturbed. As hunters, centipedes are much faster and will dart quickly away.
Centipedes and millipedes both belong to a subphylum of arthropods called Myriapoda, a word meaning ‘ten thousand feet.’ In reality, neither critter has anywhere near 1000 legs, let alone ten thousand.
The number of legs on a centipede or millipede depends on the species. Millipedes may have between 40 and 400 legs, and centipedes may have up to 382 legs.