Class Diplopoda/Chilopoda (millipedes & centipedes)
Major Attributes:
  1. Both belong to the Phylum Arthropoda.
  2. They are sometimes grouped together as myriapods.
  3. Most of their hunting takes place at night.
  4. Different species of each class are found throughout the world.
  5. Both have antennae on their heads that act as a sensing device.
  6. Both walk in a metachronal pattern.
  7. Both have tracheae and malphigian tubules.


The diplopods and the chilopods are two relatively small classes belonging to the largest phylum on Earth. Phylum Arthropoda contains a wide array of animals from spiders to crustaceans to every other bug, mite, or tick on the planet. Millipedes and centipedes, as these two classes are more commonly known share a variety of similarities, as noted above. Extensive research has been done on these organism's locomotory patterns. For quite some time the underlying premise for this research was finding answers to a seemingly simple question. Are these animals efficient movers, or do they waste tremendous amounts of energy? Some of the latest tests, done with high-tech cinematography have shown that they are have indeed adapted a method of locomotion designed to conserve energy while still maintaining the maximum output from each step. Research is continuing in hopes of discovering just how many legs these organisms have on the ground at different speeds. All of this knowledge is expected to be put to use in the field of robotics, where scientists have long been fixated on finding the best form of robot locomotion.

Some interesting Facts:
  1. There are some centipedes, most notably the North American Arizona species which have been known to reach lengths of over half a foot.
  2. Given that these animals possess such a great number of legs, one would expect that they would have the ability to run away from a fight. This however is not the case, as most of them curl up into a tight ball when approached by an intruder.
  3. The food sources of myriapods vary greatly among the various species. Some centipedes have been found to be carnivorous with a relentless hunting ability. Others eat nothing but low lying vegetation, and there are even some saphrotrophic species in the mix.

Some Pertinent Books Found in Lamson Library:

  1. Alexander, R. McNeill. 1979. The Invertebrates. Cambridge: University Press.
  2. Carthy, J.D. 1965. The Behavior of Arthropods: University Reviews in Biology. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman and Company.
  3. Fourtner, Charles R., Herried, Clyde F.II. 1981. Locomotion and Energetics in Arthropods. New York: Plenum Press.

(David H. Maheu, Fall 1994; edited by T. Shultz, Spring 1995)