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Centipede vs. Millipede: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on January 15, 2024
Centipedes are fast, predatory arthropods with one pair of legs per body segment, while millipedes are slower decomposers with two pairs of legs per segment.

Key Differences

Centipedes, belonging to the class Chilopoda, are characterized by their elongated bodies with one pair of legs per body segment. In contrast, millipedes, classified under Diplopoda, are recognized by their cylindrical bodies with two pairs of legs per segment. Both are arthropods, yet they differ significantly in physical structure and number of legs.
Centipedes are generally carnivorous, feeding on insects and other small creatures. They move quickly and are equipped with venomous claws for hunting. Millipedes, on the other hand, are primarily detritivores, consuming decaying plant material and contributing to soil health. Their movement is slower and more deliberate compared to the agile centipedes.
In terms of defense mechanisms, centipedes use their venomous claws not only for hunting but also for protection. Millipedes, however, rely on curling into a tight coil to protect their delicate undersides, and some species can secrete irritating chemicals as a defense against predators. Both have unique ways of defending themselves but employ different strategies.
Centipedes typically have a more aggressive appearance, with longer, more pronounced antennae and fewer body segments. Millipedes possess a more subdued look, with shorter antennae and a greater number of body segments, giving them a more segmented appearance. This distinction in appearance is one of the easiest ways to differentiate them.
The habitat preferences of centipedes and millipedes also vary. Centipedes prefer moist, dark environments and are often found under rocks or logs. Millipedes, while also favoring damp areas, are more likely to be found in decaying organic matter like leaf litter. Both play important roles in their ecosystems but have adapted to thrive in slightly different niches.

Comparison Chart

Legs per Segment

One pair
Two pairs


Carnivorous (insects, small creatures)
Detritivorous (decaying plant material)

Speed of Movement


Defense Mechanism

Venomous claws
Curling into a coil, chemical secretions


Longer antennae, fewer body segments
Shorter antennae, more body segments

Centipede and Millipede Definitions


A predatory arthropod with a flat, segmented body and one pair of legs per segment.
The centipede swiftly captured its prey.


An arthropod known for its role in breaking down decaying plant material.
Millipedes contribute to the health of the soil.


A nocturnal predator commonly found in moist, dark environments.
We found a centipede hiding under a rock.


A slow-moving decomposer with a cylindrical body and two pairs of legs per body segment.
The millipede curled up when I touched it.


An arthropod with a flexible exoskeleton and numerous legs, known for its quick movements.
The centipede moved quickly through the underbrush.


A detritivorous invertebrate commonly found in moist environments like leaf litter.
There's a millipede in the compost pile.


A member of the class Chilopoda, distinguished by its elongated, multi-segmented body.
A centipede can have anywhere from 15 to 177 pairs of legs.


A member of the class Diplopoda, characterized by its many body segments and legs.
Millipedes can have up to 400 legs.


An invertebrate known for its speed and venomous claws.
I spotted a centipede darting across the garden path.


An organism with a segmented body, known for its defensive curling behavior and chemical secretions.
The millipede secreted a foul-smelling liquid when threatened.


Any of various predatory arthropods of the class Chilopoda, having a long flattened body composed of segments, each bearing a pair of jointed appendages. The appendages of the foremost body segment are modified into venomous claws. Also called chilopod.


Any of various arthropods of the class Diplopoda, having a cylindrical segmented body with two pairs of legs attached to each segment except for the first four thoracic segments, and feeding chiefly on decaying organic matter. Also called diplopod.


Any arthropod of class Chilopoda, which have a segmented body with one pair of legs per segment and from about 20 to 300 legs in total.


Any of many elongated arthropods, of the class Diplopoda, with cylindrical bodies that have two pairs of legs for each one of their 20 to 100 or more body segments.


A species of the Myriapoda; esp. the large, flattened, venomous kinds of the order Chilopoda, found in tropical climates. they are many-jointed, and have a great number of feet.


Any of numerous herbivorous nonpoisonous arthropods having a cylindrical body of 20 to 100 or more segments most with two pairs of legs


Chiefly nocturnal predacious arthropod having a flattened body of 15 to 173 segments each with a pair of legs the foremost being modified into poison fangs


What is a millipede?

A millipede is a slow-moving arthropod with a cylindrical body and two pairs of legs per segment.

Are centipedes venomous?

Yes, centipedes have venomous claws, but they are generally not harmful to humans.

What do millipedes eat?

Millipedes primarily feed on decaying organic matter, like dead leaves and wood.

Do millipedes have exactly 1,000 legs?

No, despite their name, millipedes usually have far fewer than 1,000 legs, often around 400.

Are centipedes fast?

Yes, centipedes are known for their speed and agility.

What is a centipede?

A centipede is a predatory arthropod with a segmented body and one pair of legs per segment.

Do millipedes harm plants?

Generally, millipedes do not harm live plants, as they prefer decaying material.

Can millipedes bite?

Millipedes do not bite, but some species can secrete irritating chemicals as a defense.

How many legs does a centipede have?

The number of legs in centipedes varies, typically ranging from 30 to over 300.

How do centipedes hunt?

Centipedes use their speed and venomous claws to capture and subdue prey.

Where do centipedes live?

Centipedes are often found in moist, dark environments like under logs or stones.

What is the lifespan of a millipede?

Millipedes can live for several years, depending on the species.

Are millipedes beneficial for the garden?

Yes, millipedes play a role in decomposing organic matter and enriching soil.

How do centipedes reproduce?

Centipedes lay eggs, which hatch into smaller versions of adults.

Can centipedes regenerate lost legs?

Yes, centipedes can regrow lost legs over time.

What is the main difference between centipedes and millipedes?

The main difference lies in their leg arrangement, diet, and behavior; centipedes have one pair of legs per segment and are carnivorous, while millipedes have two pairs per segment and are detritivores.

Can centipedes climb walls?

Yes, some centipedes can climb vertical surfaces.

Are centipedes solitary creatures?

Yes, centipedes are generally solitary and only come together to mate.

Do millipedes have antennae?

Yes, millipedes have short antennae used for sensing their environment.

How do millipedes defend themselves?

Millipedes curl into a coil and some secrete chemicals as a defense mechanism.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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