Although the name “millipede” derives from the Latin for “thousand feet”, no known species has 1,000; the record of 750 legs belongs to Illacme plenipes. There are approximately 12,000 named species classified into 16 orders and around 140 families, making Diplopoda the largest class of myriapods, an arthropod group which also includes centipedes and other multi-legged creatures.
Most millipedes are slow-moving detritivores, eating decaying leaves and other dead plant matter. Some eat fungi or suck plant fluids, and a small minority are predatory. Millipedes are generally harmless to humans, although some can become household or garden pests.
And via children’s book author Dick King-Smith, here’s an example of a millipede’s ‘prancing’ shadow:
Watch these next: Millipedes, The First Land Animals and why do millipedes have so many legs?
Related reading: Up Close With the First and Only Millipede Lab in the United States.