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Desert Millipede

Orthoporus ornatus


Spirostreptidae, the millipede family

Conservation Status:



Southwestern deserts including the Sonoran Desert; Arizona, New Mexico and Texas


Millipedes are detritivores, foraging for decaying organic material (in the desert, generally in sandy washes). They are nocturnal and prefer humid environments, often appearing on roads after soaking summer thunderstorms. They are good burrowers and spend most of their time underground.


The name millipede comes from the Latin mille for “thousand” and ped for “foot.” There are approximately 10,000 species of millipede.

Coloration depends on habitat but it varies from gold, yellow, orange and red to dark black. Largest millipede of the United States with body length averaging 4 inches with some individuals growing to be 6 inches. Cylindrical body that is segmented with each segment having two pairs of jointed legs; new segments are added with each shed.

Unique sensory organs, known as Tomosvory organs at the base of antennae which are believed to be used in sensing vibration, humidity and light (true function is under debate).

Millipedes are egg layers that do not care for their eggs or young. The eggs are laid underground or in some other concealed area.  The six-legged hatchlings add new segments and legs with each molt as they grow. Millipedes can live 7-10 years.

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