Giant African Millipede

Euathlus smithi

About This Animal

SIZE: 8 to 12 inches

RANGE: Tropical and sub-tropical Africa

HABITAT: Rainforest under moist debris, rotting wood and rocks

DIET: Herbivorous feeding on dead plant material, fruits and vegetables

ON EXHIBIT:  Classroom, Outreach and Encounter Animal

Adult millipedes can have over 100 pair of legs but baby giant African millipedes are born with only three pair. They add body segments and legs with each molt of their exoskeleton or external skeleton. Each armored segment of their bodies has two sets of legs, which move independently. This gives them the appearance of having a million legs when they really have about 100. 

Their main line of defense against predators is to coil into a tight ball. They have a backup defense weapon, though. It is called repugnatorial fluid. Made up of quinos and hydrochloric acid, this fluid is secreted from glands on each segment of the Millipede's body. It smells foul and tastes worse. It is fairly harmless, though it should not be applied to the eyes or eaten. Giant African Millipedes do not usually give off this fluid unless they are provoked.