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definition : millipede

Millipedes are a group of arthropods that are characterised by having two pairs of jointed legs on most body segments; they are known scientifically as the class Diplopoda, the name being derived from this feature. Each double-legged segment is a result of two single segments fused together. Most millipedes have very elongated cylindrical or flattened bodies with more than 20 segments, while pill millipedes are shorter and can roll into a ball. Although the name "millipede" derives from the Latin for "thousand feet", no known species has 1,000; the record of 750 legs belongs to Illacme plenipes. There are approximately 12,000 named species classified into 16 orders and around 140 families, making Diplopoda the largest class of myriapods, an arthropod group which also includes centipedes and other multi-legged creatures.

Most millipedes are slow-moving detritivores, eating decaying leaves and other dead plant matter. Some eat fungi or suck plant fluids, and a small minority are predatory. Millipedes are generally harmless to humans, although some can become household or garden pests, especially in greenhouses where they can cause severe damage to emergent seedlings. Most millipedes defend themselves with a variety of chemicals secreted from pores along the body, although the tiny bristle millipedes are covered with tufts of detachable bristles. Reproduction in most species is carried out by modified male legs called gonopods, which transfer packets of sperm to females.

First appearing in the Silurian period, millipedes are some of the oldest known land animals. Some members of prehistoric groups grew to over ; the largest modern species reach maximum lengths of . The longest extant species is the giant African millipede (Archispirostreptus gigas).

Among myriapods, millipedes have traditionally been considered most closely related to the tiny pauropods, although some molecular studies challenge this relationship. Millipedes can be distinguished from the somewhat similar but only distantly related centipedes (class Chilopoda), which move rapidly, are carnivorous, and have only a single pair of legs on each body segment. The scientific study of millipedes is known as diplopodology, and a scientist who studies them is called a diplopodologist.

==Etymology and names== The scientific name "Diplopoda" comes from the Ancient Greek words διπλοῦς (diplous), "double" and ποδός (podos), "foot", referring to the appearance of two pairs of legs on most segments, as described below. The common name "millipede" is a compound word formed from the Latin roots ' ("thousand") and ' ("foot"). The term "millipede" is widespread in popular and scientific literature, but among North American scientists, the term "milliped" (without the terminal e) is also used. Other vernacular names include "thousand-legger" or simply "diplopod". Few species of millipede are at all widespread; they have very poor dispersal abilities, depending as they do on terrestrial locomotion and humid habitats. These factors have favoured genetic isolation and rapid speciation, producing many lineages with restricted ranges.

The living members of the Diplopoda are divided into sixteen orders in two subclasses. The basal subclass Penicillata contains a single order, Polyxenida (bristle millipedes). All other millipedes belong to the subclass Chilognatha consisting of two infraclasses: Pentazonia, containing the short-bodied pill millipedes, and Helminthomorpha (worm-like millipedes), containing the great majority of the species.

===Outline of classification===

The higher-level classification of millipedes is presented below, based on Shear, 2011, After each name is listed the author citation: the name of the person who coined the name or defined the group, even if not at the current rank.

Class Diplopoda de Blainville in Gervais, 1844 * Subclass Penicillata Latrielle, 1831 ** Order Polyxenida Verhoeff, 1934 * Subclass †Arthropleuridea (placed in Penicillata by some authors) **** Superorder Nematophora Verhoeff, 1913 ***** Order Callipodida Pocock, 1894 ***** Order Chordeumatida Pocock 1894 ***** Order Stemmiulida Cook, 1895 ***** Order Siphoniulida Cook, 1895 **** Superorder Merocheta Cook, 1895 ***** Order Polydesmida Pocock, 1887

===Evolution=== Millipedes are among the first animals to have colonised land during the Silurian period. Early forms probably ate mosses and primitive vascular plants. There are two major groups of millipedes whose members are all extinct: the Archipolypoda ("ancient, many-legged ones") which contain the oldest known terrestrial animals, and Arthropleuridea, which contain the largest known land invertebrates. The earliest known land creature, Pneumodesmus newmani, was a long archipolypodan that lived 428 million years ago in the upper Silurian, and has clear evidence of spiracles (breathing holes) attesting to its air-breathing habits. During the Upper Carboniferous (), Arthropleura became the largest known land-dwelling invertebrate on record, reaching lengths of at least . Millipedes also exhibit the earliest evidence of chemical defence, as some Devonian fossils have defensive gland openings called ozopores.

===Living groups===

The history of scientific millipede classification began with Carl Linnaeus, who in his 10th edition of Systema Naturae, 1758, named seven species of Julus as "Insecta Aptera" (wingless insects). In 1802, the French zoologist Pierre André Latreille proposed the name Chilognatha as the first group of what are now the Diplopoda, and in 1840 the German naturalist Johann Friedrich von Brandt produced the first detailed classification. The name Diplopoda itself was coined in 1844 by the French zoologist Henri Marie Ducrotay de Blainville. From 1890 to 1940, millipede taxonomy was driven by relatively few researchers at any given time, with major contributions by Carl Attems, Karl Wilhelm Verhoeff and Ralph Vary Chamberlin, who each described over 1,000 species, as well as Orator F. Cook, Filippo Silvestri, R. I. Pocock, and Henry W. Brölemann.

In 1971, the Dutch biologist C. A. W. Jeekel published a comprehensive listing of all known millipede genera and families described between 1758 and 1957 in his Nomenclator Generum et Familiarum Diplopodorum, a work credited as launching the "modern era" of millipede taxonomy. In 1980, the American biologist Richard L. Hoffman published a classification of millipedes which recognized the Penicillata, Pentazonia, and Helminthomorpha, and the first phylogenetic analysis of millipede orders using modern cladistic methods was published in 1984 by Henrik Enghoff of Denmark. A 2003 classification by the American myriapodologist Rowland Shelley is similar to the one originally proposed by Verhoeff, and remains the currently accepted classification scheme (shown below), despite more recent molecular studies proposing conflicting relationships. Several living orders also appear in the fossil record. Below are two proposed arrangements of fossil millipede groups. Both groups of myriapods share similarities, such as long, multi-segmented bodies, many legs, a single pair of antennae, and the presence of postanntennal organs, but have many differences and distinct evolutionary histories, as the most recent common ancestor of centipedes and millipedes lived around 450 to 475 million years ago in the Silurian. The head alone exemplifies the differences; millipedes have short, elbowed antennae for probing the substrate, a pair of robust mandibles and a single pair of maxillae fused into a lip; centipedes have long, threadlike antennae, a pair of small mandibles, two pairs of maxillae and a pair of large poison claws.


Millipedes come in a variety of body shapes and sizes, ranging from to around in length, and can have as few as eleven to over a hundred segments. Species of Motyxia produce cyanide as a chemical defence and are bioluminescent.

Body styles vary greatly between major millipede groups. In the basal subclass Penicillata, consisting of the tiny bristle millipedes, the exoskeleton is soft and uncalcified, and is covered in prominent setae or bristles. All other millipedes, belonging to the subclass Chilognatha, have a hardened exoskeleton. The chilognaths are in turn divided into two infraclasses: the Pentazonia, containing relatively short-bodied groups such as pill millipedes, and the Helminthomorpha ("worm-like" millipedes), which contains the vast majority of species, with long, many-segmented bodies.

Millipede eyes consist of several simple flat-lensed ocelli arranged in a group or patch on each side of the head. These patches are also called ocular fields or ocellaria. Many species of millipedes, including the entire order Polydesmida and cave-dwelling millipedes such as Causeyella and Trichopetalum, had ancestors that could see but have subsequently lost their eyes and are blind. Because they lack a waxy cuticle, millipedes are susceptible to water loss and must spend most of their time in moist or humid environments.

The first segment behind the head is legless and known as a collum (from the Latin for neck or collar). The second, third, and fourth body segments bear a single pair of legs each and are known as "haplosegments", from the Greek haplo, "single" (the three haplosegments are sometimes referred to as a "thorax"

The legs are composed of seven segments, and attach on the underside of the body. The legs of an individual are generally rather similar to each other, although often longer in males than females, and males of some species may have a reduced or enlarged first pair of legs.

===Internal organs===

Millipedes breathe through two pairs of spiracles located ventrally on each segment near the base of the legs.

Gonopods occur in a diversity of shapes and sizes, and in the range from closely resembling walking legs to complex structures quite unlike legs at all. In some groups, the gonopods are kept retracted within the body; in others they project forward parallel to the body. Gonopod morphology is the predominant means of determining species among millipedes: the structures may differ greatly between closely related species but very little within a species. The gonopods develop gradually from walking legs through successive moults until reproductive maturity.

The genital openings (gonopores) of both sexes are located on the underside of the third body segment (near the second pair of legs) and may be accompanied in the male by one or two penes which deposit the sperm packets onto the gonopods. In the female, the genital pores open into paired small sacs called cyphopods or vulvae, which are covered by small hood-like lids, and are used to store the sperm after copulation. During copulation in most millipedes, the male positions his seventh segment in front of the female's third segment, and may insert his gonopods to extrude the vulvae before bending his body to deposit sperm onto his gonopods and reinserting the "charged" gonopods into the female.

Females lay from ten to three hundred eggs at a time, depending on species, fertilising them with the stored sperm as they do so. Many species deposit the eggs on moist soil or organic detritus, but some construct nests lined with dried faeces, and may protect the eggs within silk cocoons. and may also shelter in these during wet weather, and most species eat the discarded exoskeleton after moulting. The adult stage, when individuals become reproductively mature, is generally reached in the final moult stage, which varies between species and orders, although some species continue to moult after adulthood. Furthermore, some species alternate between reproductive and non-reproductive stages after maturity, a phenomenon known as periodomorphosis, in which the reproductive structures regress during non-reproductive stages. Typically forest floor dwellers, they live in leaf litter, dead wood, or soil, with a preference for humid conditions. In temperate zones, millipedes are most abundant in moist deciduous forests, and may reach densities of over 1,000 individuals per square metre. Other habitats include coniferous forests, deserts, caves, and alpine ecosystems. A few species occur near the seashore and can survive in somewhat salty conditions.

===Burrowing=== The diplosegments of millipedes have evolved in conjunction with their burrowing habits, and nearly all millipedes adopt a mainly subterranean lifestyle. They use three main methods of burrowing; bulldozing, wedging and boring. Members of the orders Julida, Spirobolida and Spirostreptida, lower their heads and barge their way into the substrate, the collum being the portion of their exoskeleton that leads the way. Flat-backed millipedes in the order Polydesmida tend to insert their front end, like a wedge, into a horizontal crevice, and then widen the crack by pushing upwards with their legs, the paranota in this instance constituting the main lifting surface. Boring is used by members of the order Polyzoniida. These have smaller segments at the front and increasingly large ones further back; they propel themselves forward into a crack with their legs, the wedge-shaped body widening the gap as they go. Some millipedes have adopted an above-ground lifestyle and lost the burrowing habit. This may be because they are too small to have enough leverage to burrow, or because they are too large to make the effort worthwhile, or in some cases because they move relatively fast (for a millipede) and are active predators. Some species have piercing mouth parts that allow them to suck up plant juices. and certain poison dart frogs are believed to incorporate the toxic compounds of millipedes into their own defences. Several invertebrates have specialised behaviours or structures to feed on millipedes, including larval glowworm beetles, Probolomyrmex ants, chlamydephorid slugs, and predaceous dung beetles of the genera Sceliages and Deltochilum. A large subfamily of assassin bugs, the Ectrichodiinae with over 600 species, has specialized in preying upon millipedes. Parasites of millipedes include nematodes, phaeomyiid flies, and acanthocephalans.

Many species also emit various foul-smelling liquid secretions through microscopic holes called ozopores (the openings of "odoriferous" or "repugnatorial glands"), along the sides of their bodies as a secondary defence. Among the many irritant and toxic chemicals found in these secretions are alkaloids, benzoquinones, phenols, terpenoids, and hydrogen cyanide. Some of these substances are caustic and can burn the exoskeleton of ants and other insect predators, and the skin and eyes of larger predators. Primates such as capuchin monkeys and lemurs have been observed intentionally irritating millipedes in order to rub the chemicals on themselves to repel mosquitoes. Some of these defensive compounds also show antifungal activity.

The bristly millipedes (order Polyxenida) lack both an armoured exoskeleton and odiferous glands, and instead are covered in numerous bristles that in at least one species, Polyxenus fasciculatus, detach and entangle ants.

===Other inter-species interactions===

Some millipedes form mutualistic relationships with organisms of other species, in which both species benefit from the interaction, or commensal relationships, in which only one species benefits while the other is unaffected. Several species form close relationships with ants, a relationship known as myrmecophily, especially within the family Pyrgodesmidae (Polydesmida), which contains "obligate myrmecophiles", species which have only been found in ant colonies. More species are "facultative myrmecophiles", being non-exclusively associated with ants, including many species of Polyxenida that have been found in ant nests around the world.

Many millipede species have commensal relationships with mites of the orders Mesostigmata and Astigmata. Many of these mites are believed to be phoretic rather than parasitic, which means that they use the millipede host as a means of dispersal.

A novel interaction between millipedes and mosses was described in 2011, in which individuals of the newly discovered Psammodesmus bryophorus was found to have up to ten species living on its dorsal surface, in what may provide camouflage for the millipede and increased dispersal for the mosses.

==Interactions with people== Millipedes generally have little impact to human economic or social well-being, especially in comparison with insects, although locally they can be a nuisance or agricultural pest. Millipedes do not bite, and their defensive secretions are mostly harmless to humans – usually causing only minor discolouration on the skin – but the secretions of some tropical species may cause pain, itching, local erythema, edema, blisters, eczema, and occasionally cracked skin. Eye exposures to these secretions causes general irritation and potentially more severe effects such as conjunctivitis and keratitis. This is called millipede burn. First aid consists of flushing the area thoroughly with water; further treatment is aimed at relieving the local effects.

Some millipedes are considered household pests, including Xenobolus carnifex which can infest thatched roofs in India, and Ommatoiulus moreleti, which periodically invades homes in Australia. Other species exhibit periodical swarming behaviour, which can result in home invasions, crop damage, and train delays when the tracks become slippery with the crushed remains of hundreds of millipedes. Some millipedes can cause significant damage to crops: the spotted snake millipede (Blaniulus guttulatus) is a noted pest of sugar beets and other root crops, and as a result is one of the few millipedes with a common name. Some species commonly sold or kept include species of Archispirostreptus, Aphistogoniulus, Narceus, and Orthoporus.

Millipedes appear in folklore and traditional medicine around the world. Some cultures associate millipede activity with coming rains. In the Yoruba culture of Nigeria, millipedes are used in pregnancy and business rituals, and crushed millipedes are used to treat fever, whitlow, and convulsion in children. In Zambia, smashed millipede pulp is used to treat wounds, and the Bafia people of Cameroon use millipede juice to treat earache. Native people in Malaysia use millipede secretions in poison-tipped arrows. The only recorded usage of millipedes as food by humans comes from the Bobo people of Burkina Faso, who consume boiled, dried millipedes in tomato sauce.

Millipedes have also inspired and played roles in scientific research. In 1963, a walking vehicle with 36 legs was designed, said to have been inspired by a study of millipede locomotion. Experimental robots have had the same inspiration, in particular when heavy loads are needed to be carried in tight areas involving turns and curves. In biology, some authors have advocated millipedes as model organisms for the study of arthropod physiology and the developmental processes controlling the number and shape of body segments.


==External links==

* [ Milli-PEET: The Class Diplopoda] – The Field Museum, Chicago * [ Millipedes of Australia] * [ Diplopoda: Guide to New Zealand Soil Invertebrates] – Massey University * [ SysMyr, a myriapod taxonomy database] * [ British Myriapod & Isopod Group]

Category:Detritivores Category:Wenlock first appearances Category:Extant Silurian first appearances Category:Myriapods

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