AskDefine | Define myriapod

Dictionary Definition

myriapod n : general term for any terrestrial arthropod having an elongated body composed of many similar segments: e.g. centipedes and millipedes

Extensive Definition

Myriapoda is a subphylum of arthropods containing millipedes, centipedes, and others. The group contains 13,000 species, all of which are terrestrial . Although their name suggests they have myriad (10,000) legs, myriapods range from having over 750 legs (Illacme plenipes)  to having fewer than ten legs. They have a single pair of antennae and simple eyes.
Myriapods are most abundant in moist forests, where they fulfill an important role in breaking down decaying plant material . The majority are herbivorous, with the exception of centipedes, which are chiefly nocturnal predators. Pauropodans and symphylans are small, sometimes microscopic animals that resemble centipedes superficially and live in soils. Millipedes differ from the other groups in having their body segments fused into pairs, giving the appearance that each segment bears two pairs of legs, while the other three groups have a single pair of legs on each body segment.
Although not generally considered dangerous to humans, many myriapods produce noxious secretions (often containing benzoquinones) which can cause temporary blistering and discolouration of the skin .
The fossil record of myriapods reaches back into the late Silurian, although molecular evidence suggests a diversification in the Cambrian Period , and Cambrian fossils exist which resemble myriapods .
There are four classes of extant myriapods, Chilopoda (centipedes), Diplopoda, Pauropoda and Symphyla, containing a total of around 12,000 species . While each of these groups of myriapods is believed to be monophyletic, relationships among them are less certain .


Centipedes make up the order Chilopoda. They are fast, predatory and venomous, hunting mostly at night. There are around 3,300 species  to the giant Scolopendra gigantea, which may exceed 30 cm (12 in).


Most millipedes are slower than centipedes, and feed on leaf litter and detritus. They are distinguished by the fusion of each pair of body segments into a single unit, giving the appearance of having two pairs of legs per segment. Around 8,000 species have been described, which may represent less than a tenth of the true global millipede diversity .


Pauropoda is another small group of small myriapods. They are typically 0.5–2.0 mm long and live in the soil on all continents except Antarctica . Over 700 species have been described .


myriapod in Bulgarian: Многоножки
myriapod in Catalan: Miriàpode
myriapod in Czech: Stonožkovci
myriapod in German: Tausendfüßer
myriapod in Estonian: Hulkjalgsed
myriapod in Spanish: Myriapoda
myriapod in Esperanto: Miriapodo
myriapod in French: Myriapoda
myriapod in Galician: Miriápodo
myriapod in Icelandic: Fjölfætlur
myriapod in Italian: Myriapoda
myriapod in Latvian: Daudzkāji
myriapod in Lithuanian: Šimtakojai
myriapod in Dutch: Duizendpotigen
myriapod in Japanese: 多足類
myriapod in Norwegian: Mangefotinger
myriapod in Norwegian Nynorsk: Mangefotingar
myriapod in Occitan (post 1500): Myriapoda
myriapod in Polish: Wije
myriapod in Portuguese: Myriapoda
myriapod in Russian: Многоножки
myriapod in Slovenian: Stonoge
myriapod in Serbian: Стоноге
myriapod in Serbo-Croatian: Stonoge
myriapod in Finnish: Tuhatjalkaiset
myriapod in Swedish: Mångfotingar
myriapod in Ukrainian: Багатоніжки
myriapod in Chinese: 多足類
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