Millipedes are myriapods that have two pairs of legs on most body segments. Each double-legged segment is a result of two single segments fused together as one. Most millipedes have very elongated cylindrical bodies, although some are flattened dorso-ventrally, while pill millipedes are shorter and can roll into a ball, like a pillbug.
The name "millipede" is a compound word formed from the Latin roots mille ("thousand") and pes ("foot"). Despite their name, no known millipede has 1,000 legs, although the rare species Illacme plenipes has up to 750. Common species have between 36 and 400 legs. The class contains over 12,000 named species in 16 orders and 147 families. The giant African millipede (Archispirostreptus gigas), is the largest species of millipede.
Millipedes are detritivores and often slow moving. Most millipedes eat decaying leaves and other dead plant matter, moisturising the food with secretions and then scraping it in with their jaws. However, they can also be minor garden pests, especially in greenhouses where they can cause severe damage to emergent seedlings. Signs of millipede damage include the stripping of the outer layers of a young plant stem and irregular damage to leaves and plant apices, the very top of a plant.
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