Biology Corner: What is the difference between a centipede and a millipede?


Many people think the only difference between a millipede and a centipede is the number of legs. Since the Latin root centi- means one hundred and milli- means one thousand, centipedes must have one hundred legs and millipedes must have one thousand legs, right? Wrong. A centipede doesn’t even have fifty legs, and a millipede has nowhere near one thousand legs. Though, millipedes do have many more legs than centipedes.

There are some other notable differences as well. A centipede is flat and has only one pair of legs per body segment. A millipede is round and has two pairs of legs per body segment. A centipede is aggressive and fierce and is able to immobilize its prey with poisonous claws. A millipede is docile and slow. It eats vegetation and organic debris. And when threatened, it will roll up in a ball and hope its exoskeleton will be enough to protect it.

So, if you see a millipede, you have nothing to fear. But if you see a centipede, give it a wide berth. Its bite is painful to humans, though rarely dangerous.


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