So how many legs does a millipede grow?
When Joan pointed out the shongololo millipede on the road in Kruger National Park I thought she was kidding. They are so big, about 10 inches (25.4 cm).
Not like what I’m used to seeing in the Pacific Northwest where the night trains get no bigger than 1.5 inches (3.81cm).
In actuality, they only have 102 pairs of legs. The babies hatch with only three pairs of legs and acquire more at each molt. Although they have so many short legs and move rather slow they are powerful burrowers easily forcing their way underground head first moving their body in a wavelike pattern. They are detritivores, eating decaying leaves and dead plant matter.
Due to their lack of speed and their inability to bite or sting, millipedes’ primary defense mechanism is to curl into a tight coil—protecting their delicate legs inside an armored body exterior.
Many species also emit poisonous liquid secretions or hydrogen cyanide gas, smells like cherries, as a secondary defense.
And then there’s the Shongololo Express named by indigenous people upon seeing trains winding through the hillsides.
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