How many legs does a centipede have?

The centipede or centipede, an elongated-bodied beast with innumerable legs, sometimes causes disgust or fear. However, it also engenders curiosity in some people. Does the centipede actually have centipedes?

A centipede

Before answering this question, let’s first make one thing clear: centipede classification. Contrary to popular belief, it is neither an insect nor a worm. The reason is simple, insects usually have three pairs of legs, while a worm has none. Specifically, the millipede is an invertebrate which is part of a subphylum of arthropods, myriapods. Regarding the number of their legs, no species of myriapods did not present individuals having about 1,000 legs. At least, that was the case before the discovery of a new species in 2020.

Centipedes have been around for 400 million years

Myriapods or centipedes are present on Earth for nearly 400 million years. In comparison, men began their conquest of the world ago 200,000 years. Scientists even believe that they are among the first land beasts to have emerged. In those days, centipedes could measure up to two meters long.

Currently, the length of myriapods only measured in centimeters, even in millimeters. While the size of centipedes has decreased significantly, their ability to adapt has not.

Today, myriapods are present on all continents and are known for their elongated body with many legs. Concretely, centipedes have an articulated skeleton which is divided into several rings. On each of these segments are attached one or two pairs of legs.

Do centipedes deserve their name?

Since man has known and studied myriapods, he has not discovered any centipedes that really deserve this designation. At least, that was the case until two years ago.

A centipede, a species of myriapod

The “real” centipede

In August 2020, a new species of millipede was accidentally discovered in Australia, sixty meters underground. It was in a borehole in the Eastern Goldfields area, a town in Western Australia.

the December 16, 2021Paul Marek and his team published an article about a “real” centipede in the review Scientific Reports. It should be noted that Paul Marek comes from Virginia Tech University, USA. His colleagues are biologists from the University of Western Australia in Melbourne and Macquarie University.

During their study, these scientists identified this specimen as part of the Siphonotidae family. Furthermore, they decided to baptize Eumilipes persephone, especially in reference to the Queen of the Underworld: Persephone. She is a deity from Greek mythology and is the wife of Hades. Eumilipeshe comes from the Greek had as well as Latin thousand and peswhich mean true, thousand and foot respectively.

A size difference between male and female

The authors of the study onEumilipes persephone noticed that females are usually larger than males. On one side, adult males have an average width of 0.92 mm and an average length of 54.7 mm. On the other hand, females have an average width of 0.95 mm for an average length of 95.7 mm.

This difference in proportion is reflected in their number of legs. Thus, males have fewer legs than females in the Eumilipes persephone. Concretely, the male with the most legs has 818while the female has 1,306.

Eumillipes persephone, the true centipede

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Beneficial characteristics for an underground life

Still according to the study by Paul Marek and his colleagues, theE. persephone has a conical head without eyes. Instead, it has large antennas which allow it to detect crevices and micro-cavities. This centipede is introduced there thanks to its segments which are compressible, therefore which can be refined or compacted. In addition, its many legs provide it with considerable pushing power. All this allows him to navigate underground with great ease.

“The centipede digs by stretching its stretchy body, making it thinner to accommodate microcavities. »

Paul Mark

To date, theEumilipes persephone is the only centipede discovered to actually have more centipedes. A characteristic that would be limited even to females. As for other myriapods, the previous record is about 750 legs.

The “false” centipedes?

The number of legs of myriapods varies greatly depending on their class. In the world, there are several thousand species of myriapods which are grouped into four classes. Here they are :


diplopods have two pairs of legs on each ringmoreover their name means “double foot”. Besides its two pairs of feet, the diplopod is also capable of secreting toxins to protect himself. This class of myriapods is the most numerous on earth with approximately 10,000 species discovered.

A centipede, a species of diplopod

Nevertheless, diplopods are generally harmless to humans since they feed on plants. They mainly settle in dead or decaying wood, soil and other moist places. This type of millipede participates in particular in the aeration of the soil and at the formation of humus.

Right after theE. persephone, the centipedes with the most legs belong to this class. It is I’Illacme plenipes whose individuals possess on average 600 legs. In northern California, researchers have even been able to observe up to 752 legs on some of these centipedes.

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Centipedes or centipedes matter about 3,500 species of centipedes. It is characterized by a single pair of legs per ring. However, the first part deals two venom fangs named “forcipules”. It is precisely this specificity among other classes that defines centipedes.

A centipede, a species of centipede

Centipedes hunt worms or other arthropods, so they are carnivorous. Unlike diplopods, they all live on the surface, however they need a sufficiently humid place to avoid dehydration. In addition, the bite of large species causes a adult men pain and is even dangerous for a child.

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The researchers identified about 400 species of pauropods. They are part of smallest myriapods with a length of less than two millimeters. The name pauropods comes from the ancient Greek “pauro” and “podes” which mean little and feet. For good reason, this class of centipedes has 11 pairs of legs maximum.

A centipede, a species of pauropod

The symphyla

The symphyla are the least numerous with only 150 species and they all have twelve pairs of legs. Individuals of this class measure only a few millimeters and are blind and completely depigmented.

A centipede, a species of symphyle


  • Millipedes prefer damp places, therefore, they will not live in a dry house or room. As a result, they often invade bathrooms.
  • Many myriapods continually moult during their lifetime to lengthen and acquire other segments.

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What are millipede legs for?

The first curiosity surely concerns the way in which this small animal coordinate all his legs. Centipedesfor example, mobilize fewer and fewer legs as they accelerate. As for diplopods, it is a nervous mechanism that causes a kind of chain movement along their body that is reminiscent of a wave.

Finally, the myriapods exploit the legs at their disposal to navigate and sink into the ground.

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