Giant African Millipede

(Archispirostreptus gigas)

Habitat and Distribution: Found in moist leaf litter, underbrush, and rotting wood in tropical and sub-tropical rainforests of Western Africa.

Size: 4-12 inches long

Wild Diet: Decaying fruits and leaves

Predators: Birds, small mammals, frogs and reptiles

Life Span: 5-7 years in zoos

Reproduction: Giant African millipedes lay hundreds of eggs at a time, which they bury in the soil on the forest floor. The eggs hatch after about 3 months. Newly hatched millipedes are white and have only a few segments and three pairs of legs. Each time they molt, they acquire more legs, eventually acquiring 200-300 legs after 7-10 molts.

Behavior: Giant African millipedes are mostly nocturnal and live communally. They use their strong legs to burrow in the forest floor. When disturbed, they coil into a tight ball, exposing only their tough exoskeleton. As a second line of defense, they can secrete a foul-smelling fluid to make themselves unpalatable to predators.

Conservation

IUCN Status: Not Evaluated

Giant African millipedes are abundant, but their rainforest habitat is threatened.

Millipedes and centipedes

What’s the difference between a millipede and a centipede?

Millipedes have four legs per segment (except for head and tail segments, which have two legs each); centipedes have two legs per segment. Millipedes also have rounded bodies and move slowly, while centipedes have flat bodies and move quickly. Unlike centipedes, millipedes can’t bite humans. They have weak jaws, suited to their diet of decaying plant matter.

Did you know?

  • There are currently 6,500 millipede species identified worldwide, at least 600 of which are found in North America.
  • Millipedes breathe through holes called “spiracles” that can’t be closed, so if their environment becomes too wet, they can easily drown.
  • Like many arthropods, they smell and taste with all parts of their bodies.