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Millipedes: Diplopoda

Flat-backed Millipede (polydesmus Angustus): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Flat-backed millipedes resemble centipedes. The bodies of the adults are flat, dark brown, with about twenty segments. They measure 0.6 to 1.0 inches (14 to 25 millimeters) in length and are about 0.16 inches (0.4 millimeters) wide. The plate segments covering the back are ridged along their lengths. The antennae and legs are longer than in most other millipedes.

Geographic range: This species is found in northwestern Europe and was accidentally introduced to the southeastern United States.

Habitat: Flat-backed millipedes live in compost piles, under tree bark, inside cracks in stumps and logs, or in loose soil with lots of decaying bits of leaves.

Flat-backed millipedes eat roots, dead leaves, and other bits of decayed plant materials, as well as strawberries and other fruits. (Illustration by Amanda Humphrey. Reproduced by permission.)

Diet: They eat roots, dead leaves, and other bits of decayed plant materials, as well as strawberries and other fruits.

Behavior and reproduction: The ridged body of this millipede helps it to push its way through the soil.

Mating occurs from late spring through the summer and then again in late summer through mid-fall. Males usually mate only once. The females store the sperm from a single mating and produce several batches of eggs. Young millipedes hatching earlier in the year reach adulthood in one year, while those hatching later require two.

Flat-backed millipedes and people: This species has been studied by scientists to understand the effect of sunlight and day length on millipedes.

Conservation status: This species is not considered endangered or threatened. ∎



Hopkin, S. P., and H. J. Read. The Biology of Millipedes. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Tavolacci, J., ed. Insects and Spiders of the World. Volume 6: Locomotion-Orb-web Spider. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2003.

Walls, J. G. The Guide to Owning Millipedes and Centipedes. Neptune City, NJ: T.F.H. Publications, 2000.


Evans, A. V. "Minding Millipedes." Reptiles Magazine 11, no. 10 (October 2003): 86–91.

Shelley, R. M. "Centipedes and Millipedes with Emphasis on North American Fauna." Kansas School Naturalist 45, no. 3 (1999): 1–15.

Web sites:

"Diplopoda. Millipedes." Ecowatch. http://www.ento.csiro.au/Ecowatch/Insects_Invertebrates/Diplopoda.htm (accessed on November 2, 2004).

"Millipedes. Diplopoda." BioKids. Critter Catalog. http://www.biokids.umich.edu/critters/information/Diplopoda.html (accessed on November 2, 2004).

Myriapoda. http://www.myriapoda.org (accessed on November 18, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceInsects and SpidersMillipedes: Diplopoda - Physical Characteristics, Geographic Range, Habitat, Behavior And Reproduction, Millipedes And People, Pill Millipede (glomeris Marginata): Species Accounts - DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS