There are thousands of groups of insects that inhabit the face of the planet. One of them corresponds to the group of arthropods , invertebrate animals that have an exoskeleton , segmented body and articulated appendages . They are included in the many classifications that the animal kingdom has, and among them, we can find the myriapods , a subphylum of arthropods that includes a series of strange animals and some known as centipedes or millipedes . This group comprises approximately 13,000 different species and they all live in different terrestrial habitats .


What are myriapods?

Myriapods are a subphylum group of arthropods that have a body made up of many segments and multiple legs . They are generally nocturnal animals that hide during the day among leaf litter, moss and logs.

  • Definition
  • Characteristics of myriapods
  • Types of myriapods
  • Habitat
  • Feeding
  • Reproduction of myriapods
  • Breathing
  • Importance
  • Examples of species
  • Why are they called myriapods


The myriapods, known kinetically as  Myriapoda, are an arthropod group that is made up of centipedes , pauropods, and symphinids . It is believed that there are a little more than 10,000 genera today. They are animals that are characterized by having many legs . They are very similar to insects in some respects but have important differences that distinguish them. They are animals that have their body made up of two regions, the head and the trunk , which is long and is also made up of many segments that have many pairs of legs . 


Characteristics of myriapods

Among the most outstanding characteristics that myriapods have, we mention the following:

  • Some of them have layers of protection that protect them from drying out.
  • They take refuge in humid and cool places .
  • Its body is divided into head , thorax and abdomen .
  • Their bodies are divided into different rings and each of these rings have two or one pair of legs .
  • They have a pair of antennae placed on their head and a pair of simple eyes .
  • They have jaws that have undergone different modifications to be able to adapt to animal life.
  • Most of them are classified as saprophagous , in other words, they are animals that feed on animals and plants that are in a state of decomposition.
  • They have mechanoreceptors in the form of spines and hairs located on their legs and on their antennae.
  • They can inhabit from deserts to the Arctic Circle .

Types of myriapods

In the phylum of the Arthropods, the Myriapods are animals that are evolutionarily close to the Hexapods , the subphylum of insects . Myriapods have four different classes which are:

  • Chilopoda : They are also known as centipedes and scolopendras . They are generally nocturnal , fast , predatory animals and have venom . There are around 3,000 species in this group and they can grow to a size of 30 centimeters . They have 21 segments and in each of them we find only one pair of legs .
  • Diplopoda : they are generally known by the name of millipedes . Most of this type of myriapods are saprophagous and are very slow to move. They are also characterized because their body segments are fused , which is why in each of these segments there are two pairs of legs. In this group we find around 8000 species, among them the animal species with the largest number of legs, which has 750.
  • Pauropoda : they are small in size and can measure up to 2 mm long. They inhabit the soil and are found throughout all continents . They are related to diplodopa because they have fused two of the metamers of the dorsal part of their abdomen and thorax .
  • Symphila : this group includes around 200 species and morphologically they closely resemble centipedes, although their size is smaller and they are translucent . They can live on the ground or in trees and also have 6 pairs of legs when they are young but they can have up to 12 in their adult stage.


Myriapods can come to inhabit a wide variety of habitats, but they usually are usually found most abundantly in the forests . In the same way they are found in the habitats of grasslands , scrublands and can even inhabit deserts and the Arctic . They can be found in greater quantities in tropical and subtropical climates where there is more moisture and food. They cannot live in water.


The diet of this type of animal is mostly carnivorous because the vast majority of species are saprophagous . There are also some species that are predatory and some others are herbivorous . Some of them are even classified as carnivores and predators since they have the ability to hunt small reptiles. They have a jaw with poisonous glands that are responsible for injecting venom into the prey when it is bitten. Other species are completely herbivorous , and feed only on plant matter . 

Reproduction of myriapods

The type of reproduction that myriapods have is sexual , despite this, some organisms can also reproduce through parthenogenesis . They are dioecious , in other words, individuals of this species have different sexes . When the reproductive process occurs, the male produces the spermatophore , which is basically a package full of sperm , which he will have to transfer to the female . This type of transfer is done indirectly and the male leaves the spermatophore near the female, who will be the one in charge of collecting it through a somewhat process.complex and highly regulated . They are oviparous animals and their development is direct since they do not need metamorphosis or larval stages to complete their development. When the young of the myriapods are born they do so with few segments and as they grow and move the cuticle , the number of segments they have increases . 


The respiration of the myriapods is carried out tracheally , and they do it in a very similar way to other arthropods . Air enters through the spiracles on their surface and is then transported to the other organs of your body. The type of movement with myriapods is open , have a heart – shaped tubular occupying much of his body and also have very few blood vessels , including some species that have no glass.


In addition to being part of the food chain and eliminating materials and animals in a state of decomposition , some have been considered benefits because they are believed to have properties to fight diseases in humans and for this, research and experiments are carried out. They help fight some pests that attack crops and are responsible for maintaining micro- environments in plants and microorganisms .

Examples of species

Some examples of myriapods are:

  • Scolopendra
  • Centipede or carder
  • Scolopendra
  • Diplopod Myriapods (Millipedes)
  • Aulacobolus rubropunctatus
  • Centrobolus sp.

Why are they called myriapods

They are called this way because their legs are articulated to their exoskeleton and because they belong to the group of arthropods that have articulated feet , in addition to appendages .

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