The Greater Kruger is home to many weird and wonderful little creatures. Critters that you stand very little chance of seeing during the cooler winter months, and one of my favourite creepy crawlies, is the millipede. These peaceful, yet very strange creatures, love to move around just before or after the rain. No summer safari is complete without seeing several of these fascinating creatures crossing the road while out on game drive.

Here are 7 fascinating facts about these multi-legged summer creatures:

1. Millipedes share the subphylum Myriapods (meaning “the many legged ones”) with their vastly creeper cousins, the centipedes. Centipedes, however, are vicious and carnivorous while millipedes are peaceful and herbivorous.

2. Millipedes have 4 legs per segment and can sometimes reach lengths of over 200mm, so it is easy to see why they fit into this very appropriately named subphylum.

3. As long as you show them respect, the millipedes are essentially harmless. There is no harm in picking them up to get a closer look but be warned, if you are disrespectful or rough, the “many legged one” may just show the same level of disrespect and essentially poo on you!

4. While they may be harmless they can still poison you if you decide to eat one! They are host to a number of harmful chemicals, but the most famous one would be Cyanide. They cannot bite you and envenomate you, like a snake, but rather this defense mechanism is used as a Darwinian test for those willing to see if they pass.

5. The Civet is the most notable creature to have evolved a way of getting past these poisons. This small, cat-like animal relishes in the millipede feast that summer brings. Also favored by the burrowing scorpions who largely live underground, their dens are easily recognizable as the outside is usually littered with sun-bleached, round segments of once living millipedes.

6. Millipedes form a great part of the ecosystem and fall into a very important group that often goes unappreciated for the work they do, the detritivores. Detritivores are essentially natures clean-up crew as they remove unwanted and rotting vegetation and fungi from the ecosystem.

7. The main reason that they are shaped and formed the way they are is to help them in pushing through the thick humus and undergrowth of the environment. Their tough exoskeleton, or tube-like calcareous shell, acts like a form of amour and also helps protect them from the never-ending scourge of carnivorous ants found on the African ground.




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