Giant African Millipede


ORDER: Spirobolida

FAMILY: Spirostreptidae

GENUS: Archispirostreptus

SPECIES: gigas

DESCRIPTION:
Black in color. Two antennae, two compound eyes, 2 pairs of legs per body segment except for head and tail segment. Usually 30 to 40 segments, but may have more. One of the largest millipedes in the world; can grow up to 11 inches in length. Males and females look alike.

GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
Moist debris, rotting wood of tropical and sub-tropical Africa.

DIET:
Decaying plant matter in the wild. Mostly lettuce and produce.

LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
Nocturnal. Terrestrial, but will burrow to some extent. Will live communally. Both male and female have their reproductive organs on their undersides. The male winds around the female, transfers sperm from his organ to his legs and thus deposits the sperm inside her. Fertilized eggs are laid in tiny holes in the ground. The white neonates have only a few segments and three pairs of legs. They darken in color and add segments and legs as they grow. Life span is 5-7 years.

SPECIAL ADAPTATIONS:
Rolls into a ball if disturbed. The setae (barbs) projecting from a millipede's body help make it unpalatable to anything that attempts to eat it. May secrete a liquid (from glands on the side of each segment) that is dangerous to the eyes and mouth and serves as a repellant against predators.

INTERPRETIVE INFORMATION:
Doesn't have a thousand legs, but only about a hundred to two hundred. Difference from centipedes: centipedes have two legs per body segment, millipedes have four; centipedes are fast-moving carnivores while millipedes are slow herbivores; millipedes don't bite, centipedes have venom in their fangs; neither sting with their legs.

OUR ANIMALS:

STATUS IN WILD:
Beneficial as they help recycle decaying plants. Not endangered.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  1. Buchsbaum, Ralph et al. 1986. The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of Animal Life. Portland House Publishing, p. 405.
  2. Internet: 1) Bullington, Steve. "Captive Care and Breeding of the Giant West African Millipede"; 2) Fouskaris, Jon."African Giant Black Millipede". jfouskaris@pipeline. com.; 3) www.oregonzoo.org.
  3. "Millipede", Card 45. Wild Life Fact File . 1994.

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