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Millipedes

Millipedes belong to the lower invertebrates, and are entirely vegetarian, feeding mainly on decaying plant material (detritus) and fungi. They belong to the myriapods, which means many legged, and to the class diplopoda. They lack any poisonous appendages for attack or defence. When disturbed they coil themselves and secrete offensive fluids from spiracles along the midline of the body. They release benzaldehyde, which is a chemical irritant to sensitive skin and highly toxic hydrogen cyanide gas when threatened. They are referred to in Afrikaans as “duisendpote” which literally means “thousand legs”. African People commonly refer to them as “shongalolas”. In reality however they generally have up to 120 pairs of legs. The millipede pictured above (Spirobolos ?) is referred to as a worm-like millipede and belongs to the order Juliformia. They are glossy black or have alternating black and yellow bands. Females lay several hundred eggs the size of pinheads. Young hatch with three pairs of legs, acquiring more each time they moult. They are observed more frequently during the wet months of the year and are one of the preferred meals on the menu of civet cats.