Subphylum Myriapoda

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Myriapods. The centipede Scutigera coleoptrata (a) has up to 15 pairs of legs. The North American millipede Narceus americanus (b) bears many legs, although not a thousand, as its name might suggest. (credit a: modification of work by Bruce Marlin; credit b: modification of work by Cory Zanker)

OpenStax Biology 2e

Subphylum Myriapoda comprises arthropods with numerous legs. Although the name is misleading, suggesting that thousands of legs are present in these invertebrates, the number of legs typically varies from 10 to 750. This subphylum includes 16,000 species; the most commonly found examples are millipedes and centipedes. Virtually all myriapods are terrestrial animals and prefer a humid environment. Ancient myriapods (or myriapod-like arthropods) from the Silurian to the Devonian grew up to 10 feet in length (three meters). Unfortunately, they are all extinct!

Myriapods are typically found in moist soils, decaying biological material, and leaf litter. Subphylum Myriapoda is divided into four classes: Chilopoda, Symphyla, Diplopoda, and Pauropoda. Centipedes like Scutigera coleoptrata are classified as chilopods. These animals bear one pair of legs per segment, mandibles as mouthparts, and are somewhat dorsoventrally flattened. The legs in the first segment are modified to form forcipules (poison claws) that deliver poison to prey like spiders and cockroaches, as these animals are all predatory. Symphyla are similar to centipedes, but lack the poison claws and are vegetarian. Millipedes bear two pairs of legs per diplosegment—a feature that results from the embryonic fusion of adjacent pairs of body segments. These arthropods are usually rounder in cross-section than centipedes, and are herbivores or detritivores. Millipedes have visibly more numbers of legs as compared to centipedes, although they do not have a thousand legs. The Pauropods are similar to millipedes, but have fewer segments.

Source:

Clark, M., Douglas, M., Choi, J. Biology 2e. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Access for free at: https://openstax.org/details/books/biology-2e

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