Rowland M. Shelley, Ph. D.; University of Tennessee - Enotmology & Plant Pathology - Adjunct Professor


The myriapods comprise four classes of multi-legged arthropods with at least 18 legs (9 pairs) in adults. Two of the classes, the Diplopoda (millipedes) and Chilopoda (centipedes), include primarily relatively large-bodied, macroscopic organisms that are readily seen by the general public and are addressed in this website. The other two classes, Symphyla and Pauropoda, lack common names and are microscopic organisms that are at most only a few mm in length; they are not covered here. The Diplopoda and Chilopoda are ecologically important classes that occur throughout the temperate and tropical zones of the world and have been unintentionally introduced by man onto most oceanic islands. They are major components of terrestrial ecosystems including even xeric (desert) environments, yet they are poorly known and have been relatively ignored by past and present biologists. 

Despite this inattention by professional biologists, myriapods attract considerable interest from the general public on all continents. Amateur chat lines exist on the Web; large-bodied millipedes & centipedes are imported from tropical regions of Asia, Africa, and South America and sold in pet stores throughout the US; and a substantial number of people engage in husbandry. If one searches for millipedes or centipedes on a search engine, a host of websites turn up, but much of the information on them is inaccurate or incomplete. A need exists for a professionally run website with factually accurate information that is retrievable by search engines, and this site is designed to fill this void.

These pages provide general information on both millipedes & centipedes and sections on past, present, and projected research projects. The latter involve extensive collaborations with colleagues both in the US and other countries and continents, and will be updated periodically as new information becomes available. There is also a table of differences between millipedes & centipedes (it's more than just the number of legs) and a page of links to other websites with photos and accurate information on these organisms. The general information concludes with family-level taxonomies, and photos of representatives of North American taxa will be accessible by clicking on names in these classifications.  

Sphendononema guildingii (Newport, 1845) (Chilopoda: Scutigeromorpha: Pselliodidae), a common centipede in Central & South America and on Caribbean Islands