Recently we received two photos and got asked the classic question, “What is this?” One of the photographs is shown above the title of the post, and here is the other:
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This brown segmented creature is a millipede! There are about 12,000 different species of millipedes. Millipedes actually belong to the phylum arthropods, while worms belong to the annelida phylum. Despite this difference, millipedes are often mistaken for worms because of their similar movement and body shape. While worms have no legs, millipedes have plenty. Although you can barely see the thin legs on the specimen in this photo, we zoomed in and spotted them. In fact, millipedes have two pairs of jointed legs per segment. Centipedes, which are arthropods too, are also confused with millipedes pretty regularly since they look so similar and they also have legs. However, centipedes have only one set of jointed legs per segment. We also recognized this instantly as a millipede by its two antennae.
We sometimes hear from readers who find millipedes in their houses, but going off of the photo evidence, it appears that this reader saw this millipede outside in its natural environment! Millipedes are scavengers that typically live on forest floors. You might find them in lead litter, dead wood, soil, or other dark and damp places. They eat leaf debris and decaying plant matter. If they are especially desperate and hungry, they might resort to eating living plants. Millipedes are an important part of the ecosystem, where they play a part in the break down and decomposition of leaf litter.
In conclusion, a reader sent us two photos and asked us if we could identify the species in them. After taking note of the brown color, segmented body, two antennae, and small legs, we are confident to say this is a millipede!
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