Giant African Millipede

Wayne and Gladys Valley Children's Zoo

Location

In the Zoo

Scientific Information

Scientific Name: Archispirostreptus gigas
Class: Diplopoda
Order: Spirobolida
Family: Spirostreptidae
Genus: Archispirostreptus

Size

Male

Female

Height:
Length: 4-11 inches 4-11 inches
Weight:
Maturity: Unknown Unknown

Lifestyle and Lifespan

Diet: Decomposer
Activity Timeframe: Nocturnal
Interactivity: Social
Sexual Dimorphism: No
Gestation: 3 months
Lifespan in the Wild: 5-7 years
Lifespan in Captivity: 5-7 years

Geographic Range

Central and West Coasts of Africa

Conservation

Status in the Wild: Not Evaluated
Threats: Habitat Loss- Deforestation

Characteristics

Black in color. Two antennae, two compound eyes, two 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.

Species Specifics

There are over 10,000 species of millipede worldwide. Millipedes belong to the class Diplopoda, which has at least 15 recognized orders of millipedes. The giant millipede (Archispirostreptus spp.) belongs to the order Spirostreptida.

Physical Characteristics

Millipedes have developed unique defense mechanisms for survival. Some species of millipedes can also secrete a foul-smelling/terrible tasting fluid through glands located alongside their body, near the legs on each segment. The toxicity of this fluid varies from species to species. For example, the excretions of some species can discolor human skin or irritate the eyes, others are corrosive, and some species even produce cyanide that can repel or kill insect predators.

Ecology

Habitat

Moist debris, rotting wood and plant matter of tropical and sub-tropical regions.

Distribution

The giant millipede lives in both tropical and arid coastal forests of eastern Africa.

Diet

In the wild, millipedes eat decaying plant matter, called detritus, making them detritivores.

Ecological Web

Millipedes eat decaying plant material which cleans up the forest floors. In turn, that material passes through the millipede and fertilizes the soil, helping new plants to grow.

Activity and Behavior

Activity Pattern

Millipedes will burrow in the ground during the heat of the day and come out to forage on detritus during the night.

Behavior

One strategy is to curl up into a spiral. This coil protects the millipede's head and soft underside.

Social Behavior

Will live communally.

Reproductive Behavior

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.

Offspring

20 to 300 eggs

Conservation

Status

Historical

Current Threats

Habitat Loss- Deforestation

Our Role

Oakland Zoo has giant African millipedes on display in the Bug House for the education of the public. We also have millipedes in our program animal collection for animal close-ups.

How You Can Help

Millipedes are doing well in the wild but lots of other animals in the African Rainforest that depend on millipedes to keep the soil healthy need our help. By supporting the Oakland Zoo you are supporting many conservation organizations across Africa.

Fascinating Facts

While the millipede doesn’t have a thousand legs it does have between one hundred and two hundred.

There are many differences between millipedes and 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.

References

P.O. Box 5238

9777 Golf Links Road Oakland, CA 94605