Both centipedes and millipedes are found on every continent except Antarctica. They are Arthropods with many jointed legs and body segments, and there are many species of both, yet there are some key differences between the two.


Centipedes vs. Millipedes Millipedes have cylindrical or slightly flattened, multi-segmented dark brown or black bodies with heads that display club-shaped, shorter antennae. Their length ranges from half an inch to some over a few inches. The first segment of a millipede is legless; the second to the fourth segments have two legs while the remaining ones have four legs each. The total number of legs on millipedes generally range from 34 to 400. Though one species of millipede in California, Illacme plenipes, is only 0.4-1.2 inches (1-3 cm) long but grows as many as 750 legs — that's more legs than any other creature in the world.

A centipede has a flat, lighter brownish body which is divided into multiple segments, with a head displaying longer tapering antennae. Centipedes are generally at least an inch long. Centipedes have only one pair of legs per segment. The legs of a centipede are longer than the millipede’s legs. Centipede’s bodies are always dorso-ventrally flattened and they move faster as compared to the slower movement of millipedes.


Millipedes prefer moist soil and leaf litter in forests, although a few species are found in grasslands or deserts. Unlike their centipede cousins, millipedes lack a waxy layer on their exoskeleton that would help retain water so they are more prone to be in damp areas.

Centipedes are found in all sorts of terrestrial habitats, even deep underground caves, but they tend to reside in extremely dry environments; deserts are home to some of the largest centipedes. Centipedes can be found everywhere from caves and deserts to savannas and forests. Some even live near the seashores and thrive in salty conditions.


These arthropods have diverse diets with millipedes being detritivores while centipedes are carnivores. Millipedes feed on decaying vegetation, a mixture of organic matter and soil, and the leaves and roots of seedlings. Their eating habits make them essential creatures when it comes to the soil nutrient cycle and microbial decomposition. Centipedes actually have a much more interesting diet. The largest centipedes have been known to eat small mammals, frogs, and birds.

Are they venomous?

Millipedes are non-venomous arthropods which are harmless to human beings. Typically they defend themselves by curling up and protecting their delicate legs inside their exoskeleton. The millipedes secondary defense system releases a foul-smelling excretion meant to repel any possible threat.

Centipedes are predatory and venomous. Venom is produced by a gland at the base of the fangs and is administered by maxillipeds on the first body segment. Upon capturing prey, the poison gland is squeezed by the muscles surrounding it and ejects toxins through needle-like ducts. Despite this, the venom usually is not strong enough to be life-threatening to people, and most centipede bites are typically more painful for humans than they are dangerous. They are shy creatures which retreat into their hiding place when provoked, but they can and will bite to defend themselves.

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