Common Name: Red-legged millipedes
Scientific Name: Epibolus pulchripes
Millipedes are an example of an extant primitive animal that have existed on Earth for over 400 million years! Early examples of millipedes have been found preserved in amber.
Millipedes have a segmented external skeleton (exoskeleton) with two pairs of legs per segment. (This can distinguish them from centipedes). Although the name millipede suggests that they have one thousand legs this is untrue. Most species average between 19 to 100 pairs. The red- legged millipede has 750 legs.
Although they don’t look it, millipedes are related to insects! Their shared characteristics include; a single pair of antennae, side moving jaws and compound eyes above the base of the antennae, formed by groups of ocelli.
up to 13cm long
eggs hatch 1 – 2 months after laying
batches of up to 20 in egg capsules
5 - 6 years
In the wild
Despite their size, red-legged millipedes are herbivores. They prefer to eat rotting wood, deadwood and leaf litter as well as lichens.
Found throughout Kenya and Tanzania, red-legged millipedes inhabit grasslands and coastal forests as well as agricultural areas.
The female lays clutches of between 10-20 egg capsules which she guards until hatching. She will care for them for 1 – 2 months without eating, preventing them from touching the ground, cleaning them and chasing off predators. However, if disturbed she eat may eat her young
Millipedes feature in the diets of many animals including birds, lizards, frogs, toads, mammals, and carnivorous insects, so they have developed a unique natural defence mechanism. When threatened, millipedes excrete an unpleasant fluid from specialised ozopores along their body, to make themselves less appetizing to predators.
Red-legged Millipedes don’t currently face any major threats. They are caught for the international pet trade, but not at a level that presents a threat to the species.
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