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How to Tell the Difference Between a Centipede and a Millipede

Comparing Chilopoda and Diplopoda

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Centipedes have long legs that trail behind their bodies.

Centipedes have long legs that trail behind their bodies.

Photo: Forum member NancyL.

Centipedes and millipedes seem to get lumped together in a miscellaneous group, "critters that aren't insects or arachnids." Though both belong to the phylum Arthropoda, that's where the similarities end.

Centipedes belong to their own class – Chilopoda. The name originates from the Greek cheilos, meaning lip, and poda, meaning foot. The millipedes belong to a separate class, Diplopoda. Also from the Greek, Diplopoda means double foot.

Once you know the distinctions between centipedes and millipedes, you won't mix them up again.

Differences Between Centipedes and Millipedes

CharacteristicCentipedeMillipede
Antennaelongshort
Number of Legsone pair per body segmenttwo pairs per body segment, except for the first three segments, which have one pair each
Appearance of Legsvisibly extend from sides of body; trail backward behind bodydo not visibly extend from body; rear leg pairs in line with body
Movementfast runnersslow walkers
Ability to Bitecan bitedo not bite
Feeding Habitsmostly predatorymostly scavengers
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