Overview

Comprehensive Description

Narceus millipedes are known from two Canadian provinces (Québec and Ontario); every U.S. state east of the Mississippi River; and nine states to the west (Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas). These large, cylindrical millipedes may reach four inches in length as adults and are commonly encountered in a wide range of habitats and within a broad elevational range in the eastern United States. (Shelley et al. 2006 and references therein)

The genus Narceus includes two valid species endemic to Florida (N. gordanus and N. woodruffi) as well as two of uncertain status which occur throughout the range of the genus and may be referred to as the “N. americanus/annularis complex”. According to Shelley et al. (2006), the N. americanus/annularis complex likely includes unrecognized cryptic species, particularly in the southern portion of its distribution. Narceus annularis appears to have a generally more northern distribution than N. americanus, with only the former reportedly found in Canada, New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas; only the latter found in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas; and both species occurring in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Shelley et al. (2006) discuss the taxonomic history of this group and provide a thorough review and analysis of distribution records, but emphasize the need for a modern revision of the genus, including molecular genetic analyses.

Narceus americanus is a natural (and probably a primary) intermediate host of the acanthocephalan parasite Oligacanthorhynchus tortuosa. It appears likely that transmission directly from this intermediate millipede host to the definitive host (the only known definitive host being the Virginia Opossum, Didelphis virginiana) is the primary means of transmission for O. tortuosa. The work by Richardson (2006) documenting these host relationships provided the first elucidation of a life cycle of an Oligacanthorhynchus acanthocephalan and resulted in the first description of the cystacanth of O. tortuosa. Although it remains possible that the life cycle of O. tortuosa may also include intervening paratenic hosts in addition to the intermediate millipede host and the definitive opossum host (as Elkins and Nickol (1983) found was the case for another acanthocephalan that may infect millipedes, Macracanthorhynchus ingens), according to Richardson (2006) there is so far no evidence of any paratenic hosts for O. tortuosa (see general discussion of acanthocephalan life cycles under Acanthocephala). In addition to O. tortuosa, Macracanthorhynchus ingens, a common acanthocephalan parasite of the raccoon (Procyon lotor), has also been reported from N. americanus (in fact, this was the first report of an acanthocepalan from a millipede) (Crites, 1964), although cystacanths were not reared to adulthood to verify the identification or life cycle (Elkins and Nickol 1983).

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Shapiro, Leo

Source: EOL Rapid Response Team

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Distribution

North American millipedes, including several sub-species, are found in the United States in all states east of the Mississippi River and nine states to the west (Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas) and Canada (Quebec and Ontario provinces). This distribution is likely to change, however, as recent analysis of the taxonomy and distribution records of this species indicates that it probably represents a complex of multiple species.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Physical Description

Morphology

Although their common name, "millipede," implies that these animals have one thousand legs, the highest number of legs on record for an individual is 375 pairs; most millipedes have fewer than 50 pairs. North American millipedes have two pairs of legs attached to each body segment (except for a few segments at the anterior and posterior ends that have one pair). Centipedes, a closely related group of animals, can be distinguished from millipedes as they have only one pair of legs per body segment and venomous claws below their mouths. In general, bodies of millipedes are long and cylindrical, with many segments that are covered by a cuticle consisting of three layers. North American millipedes can reach up to 2.5 grams in weight and 10.2 centimeters in length. Individuals are mainly black, though the edges of their body segments show a range of colors including yellow, purple and pink. All millipedes have spiracles on their body segments, which are connected to their tracheal respiratory system and pairs of ozadenes (stink glands) connected to ozopores. These ozopores release a noxious substance, produced by the ozadenes, which contains large amounts of benzoquinones and may cause chemical burns. Unlike many millipedes, North American millipedes do not release hydrogen cyanide when threatened. Sub-species of North American millipede differ in the number and appearance of legs and body segments as well as color. Typically, males of this species have longer legs and antennae than females.

Average mass: 2.5 g.

Range length: 10.2 (high) cm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes shaped differently

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Type Information

Paratype for Arctobolus dolleyi Loomis, 1943
Catalog Number: USNM
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Entomology
Sex/Stage: Male;
Preparation: Ethanol
Collector(s): J. Dolley
Year Collected: 1937
Locality: Feamster's Lake area near tupolo; Lee Co.; Miss, Lee, Mississippi, United States
  • Paratype:
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Entomology

Source: National Museum of Natural History Collections

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Type for Spirobolus pensacolae Bollman
Catalog Number: USNM
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Entomology
Preparation: Ethanol
Locality: Pensacola; Fla., Florida, United States
  • Type:
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Entomology

Source: National Museum of Natural History Collections

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Holotype for Spirobolus oklahomae Chamberlin, 1931
Catalog Number: USNM
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Entomology
Sex/Stage: Male;
Preparation: Ethanol
Collector(s): R. Bird
Year Collected: 1930
Locality: Murray Co., oklahoma, Murray, Oklahoma, United States
  • Holotype:
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Entomology

Source: National Museum of Natural History Collections

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Ecology

Habitat

These millipedes are terrestrial animals most often found in forests and agricultural areas in the soil-litter layer interface under rocks, boards, dead trees, and piles of moist dead leaves, and occasionally in moist animal corpses. They are also found in urban and suburban areas. Because their cuticles are permeable to water, they are restricted to habitats where humidity is high, otherwise they quickly become dehydrated. While different species of millipedes have been found from sea level up to snow lines of mountains, the elevation boundaries of this species are unknown.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

Other Habitat Features: urban ; suburban ; agricultural

  • Blower, J. 1985. Millipedes: Keys and Notes for the Identification of the Species. London: The Linnaean Society of London and the Estuarine and Brackish-Water Sciences Association.
  • Ross, M. 2000. Millipedeology. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, Inc..
  • Williams, S., R. Hefner. 1928. The Millipedes and Centipedes of Ohio. Pp. 93-144 in Ohio Biological Survey, Vol. IV, No. 3, 18 Edition. Columbus, OH: The University Press.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Trophic Strategy

Millipedes are detritivores and prefer decaying leaves, wood, and roots, especially if the decaying matter has bacteria and fungi, which may increase the availability of nutrients and palatability. They sometimes eat live vegetation but rarely animal tissue. Most are coprophages and eat their own feces, which allows them to digest nutrients that were not digested the first time. They use their mandibles to bite and crush food into small pieces. Salivary glands open in the foregut and secrete a lubricating solution. Microorganisms in the gut help to digest tougher material.

Plant Foods: leaves; roots and tubers; wood, bark, or stems; algae

Other Foods: fungus; detritus ; dung; microbes

Primary Diet: mycophage ; detritivore ; coprophage

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Associations

North American millipedes are important in their ecosystems as decomposers, stimulators of microbial activity, and are very important in the cycling of terrestrial calcium. While this species does not act as a predator or parasite itself, they do engage in mutualism with certain species of ants, providing sanitary services in return for protection from predators. This species is an intermediate host to parasitic worms such as Oligacanthorhynchus tortuosa (before its definitive host, Didelphis virginiana) and Macracanthorhynchus ingens (before its definitive hosts, which include dogs, foxes and raccoons), protists (Enterobryus elegans and Enterobryus euryuri), and nematodes (Rhigonema sp.). They are also commensals with some species of mites (Narceolaelaps americanus in particular)

Ecosystem Impact: biodegradation

Species Used as Host:

Mutualist Species:

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Millipedes have a variety of defenses against predators. North American millipedes secrete a substance containing large amounts of benzoquinones that may cause dermal burns and discoloration. In addition to defensive secretions, millipedes will roll up in a tight ball to expose their hard exoskeleton as armor. In spite of these defenses, North American millipedes are prey items to many other animals, including ants, beetles, birds, centipedes, cockroaches, dogs, foxes, frogs, lizards, moles, opossums, raccoons, salamanders, scorpions, shrews, skunks, toads, and turtles.

Known Predators:

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life History and Behavior

Behavior

North American millipedes sense their environment using their antennae, which can taste food, smell odors, feel, measure temperature, find water, and sense pheromones. Their Tömösváry organs, found at the base of the antennae, specifically measure humidity and possibly act as chemoreceptors. In addition, they have eyes on either side of the head which detect light and movement. Potential mates communicate using pheromones and silk trails.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones ; vibrations

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; vibrations ; chemical

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life Cycle

Fertilized eggs are laid in a nest made of chewed up leaves and excrement that is made by the female. Although most millipedes lay hundreds of eggs at a time, the scientific literature indicates that each North American millipede nest typically contains only one egg. When they hatch, young have three pairs of legs and seven body segments. With each molt, they gain more body segments, legs, and other structures. North American millipedes molt many times throughout their lifetimes and size is directly related to age.

Development - Life Cycle: indeterminate growth

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life Expectancy

North American millipedes typically live for several years. The longest recorded lifespan in this species is 11 years.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
1 to 11 years.

Typical lifespan

Status: captivity:
1 to 11 years.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Reproduction

North American millipedes breed seasonally, beginning in the spring and early summer. Males spin a silken thread and emit pheromones in order to attract females. During millipede mating, males walk along females' backs in order to stimulate them. Females will raise their front segments, allowing males to pass a packet of stored sperm (spermatophore) to females. Some females mate only once, using stored sperm to fertilize all the eggs laid while others mate multiple times with other males. Males typically mate with several different females.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

North American millipedes' breeding season begins in the late spring/early summer and continues into autumn. Eggs hatch within a few weeks of being laid, although development times can shift with temperature changes. A female lays one egg in her prepared nest then wraps herself around the egg for brooding. Once the egg hatches there is no further parental involvement. Young millipedes take 1-2 years to reach maturity, with males usually reaching maturity first.

Breeding interval: North American millipedes may mate multiple times during their breeding season

Breeding season: Late spring through autumn

Range number of offspring: 1 (low) .

Range gestation period: 2 to 10 weeks.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 to 4 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 to 4 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); oviparous ; sperm-storing ; delayed fertilization

After mating, females may delay fertilization and protect the unfertilized eggs within their bodies. Females protect fertilized eggs by curling their body around them.

Parental Investment: pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Female)

  • Blower, J. 1985. Millipedes: Keys and Notes for the Identification of the Species. London: The Linnaean Society of London and the Estuarine and Brackish-Water Sciences Association.
  • Galloway, H. 2010. "North American Millipede, Narceus americanus" (On-line). Mountain Lake Biological Station, University of Virginia. Accessed January 22, 2013 at http://www.mlbs.virginia.edu/organism/northamericanmillipede.
  • Hopkin, S., H. Read. 1992. The Biology of Millipedes. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Ross, M. 2000. Millipedeology. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, Inc..
  • Schimming, L. 2011. "Species Narceus americanus-annularis-complex - Narceus americanus/annularis complex" (On-line). BugGuide. Accessed January 22, 2013 at http://bugguide.net/node/view/15012.
  • Vattakaven, T. 2010. "Mating in Millipedes" (On-line). Nature Magnified. Accessed January 22, 2013 at http://www.naturemagnified.com/2010/06/mating-in-millipedes.html.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Conservation

Conservation Status

This species has no special conservation status.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

  • IUCN, 2012. "The IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species" (On-line). Accessed January 26, 2013 at www.iucnredlist.org.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

These millipedes produce a substance that irritates and discolors human skin. In addition, they can do significant economic damage to root crops and are a nuisance when they swarm into homes and cover railroad tracks and roadways.

Negative Impacts: crop pest; household pest

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Millipedes are model organisms for studying arthropod physiology and segmentation. Their defensive secretions may also show promise as sources of new pharmaceuticals.

Positive Impacts: source of medicine or drug ; research and education

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Wikipedia

Narceus americanus

Narceus americanus is a large millipede of eastern North America. Common names include American giant millipede,[1] worm millipede, and iron worm.[2] It inhabits the eastern seaboard of North America west to Georgetown, Texas, north of the Ottine swamps.[3] It has a nearly cylindrical gray body, reaching a length of 4 inches (100 mm).[4] When threatened, they sometimes curl up or release a noxious liquid that contains large amounts of benzoquinones which can cause dermatological burns. This fluid may irritate eyes or skin. Many other millipedes secrete hydrogen cyanide, and while there have also been claims that N. americanus releases hydrogen cyanide, this is not true. They do however, excrete a substance that causes a temporary, non-harmful discoloration of the skin.[5]

Photos[edit]

See also[edit]

  • Tylobolus, a similar-looking genus in the Western U.S.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Millipedes (Diplopoda), Jeff's Nature Page
  2. ^ Walker, Matt J; Stockman, Amy K; Marek, Paul E; Bond, Jason E (2009). "Pleistocene glacial refugia across the Appalachian Mountains and coastal plain in the millipede genus Narceus: Evidence from population genetic, phylogeographic, and paleoclimatic data". BMC Evolutionary Biology 9 (1): 25. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-25. 
  3. ^ Stephen Welton Taber & Scott B. Fleenor (2005). "Crustaceans, millipedes, and centipedes". Invertebrates of Central Texas Wetlands. Texas Tech University Press. pp. 263–272. ISBN 978-0-89672-550-8. 
  4. ^ Jennifer Frick-Ruppert (2010). "Railroad worms and millipedes: predators and prey". Mountain Nature: a Seasonal Natural History of the Southern Appalachians. University of North Carolina Press. pp. 106–108. ISBN 978-0-8078-7116-4. 
  5. ^ J. E. Percy, J. Weatherston (1971). "Studies of physiologically active arthropod secretions. V. Histological studies of the defence mechanism of Narceus annularis (Raf.) (Diplopoda: Spirobolida)". Canadian Journal of Zoology 49 (2): 278–279. doi:10.1139/z71-040. PMID 4925896. 
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Source: Wikipedia

Unreviewed

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Disclaimer

EOL content is automatically assembled from many different content providers. As a result, from time to time you may find pages on EOL that are confusing.

To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!