Myriapods - Centipedes and millipedes

Centipedes and millipedes are myriapods (Ancient Greek: murias = ten thousand, pod = foot), all of which are terrestrial animals, have a segmented body, a pair of antennae and breathing holes called spiracles.

Centipedes and millipedes are myriapods not insects, but myriapods and insects belong to the largest group of animals on Earth, the arthropods. Arthropods are animals with hard exoskeleton and jointed limbs.

Centipedes and millipedes are not insects as they have more than six legs, but the names centipede meaning 100 legs and millipede meaning 1,000 legs is a bit misleading. For a start, the number of pairs of legs in centipedes is always an odd number and the known range is between 15 and 191 pairs.

Centipedes have only one pair of legs per body segment compared to millipedes with two pairs of legs per body segment. The animal with the most number of legs is Illacme plenipes, a millipede with a record of 750 legs.

An Australian native, the House Centipede, scientifically known as Allothereua maculata, is the most common centipede throughout southern Australia. The largest centipede in the world, Scolopendra gigantea, is a 30 centimetre centipede from South America that is able to eat mice and lizards.

Learn more about the difference between centipedes and millipedes, their origins and how they are different from insects.

Centipedes & millipedes factsheets

11 Fact Sheets in this section