In the diverse state of Texas, there are five fascinating types of millipedes that contribute to the ecosystem in their own unique ways. From the American Giant Millipede with its reddish-orange markings and nocturnal habits, to the Greenhouse Millipede commonly found in dark, cool, and moist places, these creatures play a crucial role in decomposing organic matter and enriching the soil. The Desert Millipede digs burrows and feeds on bacteria and dead plant parts, while the Rusty Millipede, native to Asia, thrives in wet areas and rotting wood. Finally, the Wandering cherry millipede is recognized by its broad body and large groups that travel in the same direction. By exploring the characteristics and habits of these millipedes, one can gain a deeper appreciation for the diverse wildlife found in Texas.
5 Millipedes in Texas
Texas is home to a variety of fascinating millipedes, each with its own unique characteristics and role in the ecosystem. These multi-legged arthropods may not be the most visually appealing creatures, but they play an essential part in decomposing organic matter and enriching the soil with nutrients. Let’s explore five types of millipedes that can be found in the state of Texas.
American Giant Millipede
One of the most impressive millipedes you can encounter in Texas is the American Giant Millipede. This species, scientifically known as Narceus americanus, is native to North America and can be found throughout Texas. These millipedes thrive in wooded and agricultural areas, often seeking refuge in the cracks of rocks, boards, dead trees, and piles of decaying leaves.
The American Giant Millipede boasts a segmented body adorned with bands of reddish-orange coloration along each segment. These millipedes are nocturnal and solitary, feeding on rotting wood, roots, and leaves. When threatened, they have a unique defense mechanism – rolling into a ball and using their tough exoskeletons to ward off any potential predators.
Another common millipede species in Texas is the Greenhouse Millipede, scientifically known as Oxidus gracilis. These millipedes have a distinct appearance, with a black to dark brown body and pale cream-colored legs. As adults, they usually don’t grow larger than an inch.
These millipedes earned their name because they are frequently found in garden greenhouses. They prefer to inhabit dark, cool, and moist areas with abundant organic matter, such as compost piles, mulch, rotting logs, or soil under logs and stones. Sometimes, they can even be found in large numbers both outdoors and indoors.
The Desert Millipede, scientifically known as Orthoporus ornatus, is a small dark brown species of millipede found in Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. These millipedes are approximately 10-15 cm long and can live up to ten years.
What sets the Desert Millipede apart is its unique adaptation to the desert environment. These creatures make their homes in deep, moist soil, which provides them with the necessary protection from potential dangers. They spend most of their time digging burrows and only come out to feed on bacteria and dead plant parts.
The Rusty Millipede, also known as the common Asian millipede, is a species native to Asia but can also be found in Texas. Scientifically named Trigoniulus corallinus, this millipede species has spread to various parts of the world, including Florida and the Caribbean.
These millipedes prefer areas with wet environments, rotting wood, and compost. They can grow up to three inches in length and have a rusty brick-red color, giving them their distinctive name. Rusty millipedes contribute to the decomposition of organic matter and play a vital role in the nutrient cycle of their habitat.
Wandering Cherry Millipede
The Wandering cherry millipede, with the scientific name Pleuroloma flavipes, is a species of flat-backed millipede found across North America. It has the most widespread distribution among all xystodesmid millipede species, spanning from the southeastern corner of North Dakota to southern Texas.
These millipedes are recognized by their broad bodies, flat side projections, and color variations ranging from dark brown to black or reddish brown. What makes them truly unique is their behavior of traveling in large groups, all heading in the same direction. This distinctive trait is why they are called “wandering cherry millipedes.”
Centipede vs. Millipede
Centipedes and millipedes are often mistaken for one another due to their similar appearance and shared classification as arthropods. However, they have some distinct differences:
Sets of Legs
One of the most noticeable differences between centipedes and millipedes is the arrangement of their legs. Millipedes have two sets of legs on each segment, while centipedes only have one set of legs on each segment. The first set of a centipede’s legs is also modified into fangs, utilized for capturing prey.
Centipedes and millipedes possess different body shapes. Millipedes generally have rounder bodies, in contrast to the flatter bodies of centipedes.
Centipedes and millipedes differ greatly in their diets. Centipedes are carnivorous predators, using their venom to catch and kill insects. In contrast, millipedes feed primarily on decomposing plant matter, playing a vital role in the ecosystem’s nutrient cycling.
When it comes to defense mechanisms, centipedes and millipedes employ different strategies. Centipedes can rapidly bite their predators and make a quick escape, relying on their speed and venom. Millipedes, on the other hand, curl up into a tight ball, using their hard exoskeleton as a shield against potential threats.
In conclusion, millipedes are intriguing creatures that contribute significantly to the Texas ecosystem. Understanding the different types of millipedes present in the state, their characteristics, and their ecological roles can deepen our appreciation for the biodiversity that exists in Texas.