How Many Legs Does a Millipede Have?

Written by Emilio Brown
Updated: October 31, 2022
© asawinimages/Shutterstock.com
Share this post on:
Continue Reading To See This Amazing Video

Millipedes are known for their numerous legs. Just how many legs do these arthropods have? A thousand? The truth is that no species of millipede has ever been discovered with that many legs. There are around 12,000 species, divided into 16 orders, and 140 families. Such extensive variety can only mean one thing: a great number of different features, number of legs included.

Millipedes feature among the creatures with the most legs in the animal kingdom which makes them similar to centipedes, but not quite the same. One of the main differences between both myriapods lies in the number of legs nature has blessed them with.

So how many legs does a millipede have? Millipedes have four legs per segment, while centipedes only have two. The number of legs a millipede has depends on the species it belongs to. In spite of a passing resemblance between them, millipedes are not insects. Although both creatures belong to the phylum Arthropoda and are arthropods, as a result, millipedes belong to the subphylum Myriapoda while insects belong to the subphylum Hexapoda.  The latter only have six legs, while those of the former can run into the hundreds.

How Many Legs Do Millipedes Have

Largest Millipedes - America Giant
Most species of millipedes have around 300 legs.

©Gerry Bishop/Shutterstock.com

The number of legs a millipede will have varies and is dependent on the species. Millipedes have four pairs of legs per segment, and the number of segments per species is around 25 to 100. Most species of millipede will have 300 legs, sometimes a bit more. The millipede species which has the most legs is Illacme plenipes, which is recorded as having had as many as 750 legs.

The Millipede Species With The Most Legs: Illacme plenipes

Illacme plenipes is a species of millipede that has the most legs, and comes the closest to reaching the 1000-leg milestone.

How many legs does a millipede belonging to this subgroup have? On average around 600 legs but like other millipede species, their leg count will vary. The average leg count of this species is twice the average of others. They were first discovered in 1926 but were never found again. It would take another 80 years before the species would be rediscovered.

Illacme plenipes has up to 750 legs.

This species belongs to the genus Illacme, and the only other species in that genus is Illacme tobini. Even though they have more legs than other species their size is relatively small compared to other millipedes. A millipede’s leg count will depend on the number of its segments, not its body length. Illacme plenipes only grows to around 3 cm, and has a pale yellow color.

This species was first discovered in California, near San Bernardino. In the U.S and Canada, there are around 1,400 different species of millipedes. New millipede species are constantly being discovered, contributing to the belief that a species with as many as 1,000 legs will be unearthed.

Why Do Millipedes Have So Many Legs

Largest Millipedes - Close up of Millipede
Millipedes’ legs help them eat decaying matter and balance across soils.

©Piyapong pc/Shutterstock.com

Millipede legs give the animal a unique look, but also give them plenty of advantages. Millipedes are terrestrial and live their life by feeding on dead leaves and decaying matter. The legs help them traverse and move around a floor littered with natural debris. The soil’s dense habitat would be harder to traverse if the millepede did not have numerous legs.

Millipedes travel across the soil, but will also burrow beneath it. Their legs help them push their slender forms through the dirt or gain leverage when entering tight spaces. Millipedes’ numerous legs make them one of the most effective travelers across the forest floor.

Millipedes are born with just a few legs and gain more as they age. When they shed their exoskeletons they replace them with new ones, through a process called molting. After each molting period they grow a new segment, thus another pair of four legs. Centipedes experience this process, but only gain two legs per segment. That means the number of legs a millipede has will depend on its species type, and also its age. Some stop molting at a certain point; others go through the process throughout their lives, but only live for a short period.


The Featured Image

Siamese Pointy Tail Millipede, isolated on white background.
© asawinimages/Shutterstock.com

Share this post on:
About the Author

Spiders, snakes, and lizards are my favorite types of animals, and I enjoy keeping some species as pets. I love learning about the various wonders nature has to offer and have been a writer for 5 years. In my spare time, you can find me getting out into nature.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are millipedes insects?

Millipedes are not insects but do belong to the phylum of arthropods. This phylum includes insects, crustaceans, arachnids, and the subphylum of myriapods. Millipedes are myriapods that have over 13,000 species of discovered animals, most of which are centipedes and millipedes.

Is it safe to pick up millipedes?

Millipedes do not bite, but you should still be wary when picking one up. Most species have glands that emit an irritant. This fluid will smell and can cause an allergic reaction. They only do this when frightened, so they can be handled when calm.

What is the difference between a Pill Bug (Roly Poly) and Pill Millipede?

Pillbugs (Oniscidea) and pill millipedes (Oniscomorpha)are quite similar, but only the pill millipede is classified as a myriapod. Pillbugs look extremely similar to a tiny millipede but they are actually crustaceans. The similarities between these two species are an example of convergent evolution.

Can humans eat millipedes?

Millipedes cannot be eaten because most species are poisonous if consumed. They do have natural predators like toads, birds, ants, and beetles. In Africa, the Bobo tribe is one society where eating millipedes is common. The toxic secretion of millipede species is a reason why this practice is not more widespread, but they can prepare the millipede and eat it safely.

Can Millipedes Make Good Pets?

Millipedes are fairly low-maintenance pets. The giant millipede species are some of the largest and are the easiest for beginners to keep. They require minimal upkeep and less work when compared with something like a dog, cat, or bird. All you need is a terrarium designed to mimic their habitat to keep them. Feeding them regularly and maintaining their environment can give them a long healthy life.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.