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What are millipedes and centipedes?

White-legged snake millipedeMillipedes and centipedes are not insects, but myriapods. The name means “many legs”. Myriapods have long bodies made up of segments. Millipedes have two pairs of legs per body segment, while centipedes have only one pair. Myriapods live in dark, damp places because their bodies dry out easily.

A millipede curled up in its defensive position


Millipedes feed mainly on decaying plants and leaves. They use their strong, short legs for burrowing slowly through soil or leaves. Their tube-like bodies allow them to squeeze into tiny spaces. When danger threatens, millipedes can curl up tight, tucking in their legs. Their hard outer shell protects their soft undersides.

The name centipede means "one hundred feet", but most species of centipede have fewer legs.

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