Giant African Millipede

Archispirostreptus gigas

Fascinating Facts

Physical Characteristics

The giant African millipedes can grow to be 12 inches long. For every body segment, the millipede has two pairs of legs, so they give the appearance of having hundreds of legs. When born, they only have three pairs of legs, and as they grow, they increase in size and add segments with each molt. In order to grow, they must go through a series of molts which can be dangerous. Before going into molt, the millipede must find a safe place to hide, because during this time, they are vulnerable to attack. All together, millipedes spend about 10% of their lives in molts. Some millipedes do not have eyes, but all have antennae and jaws to chew on plants. When threatened, they can excrete a foul-tasting and smelling fluid from specialized stink glands. Their main line of defense is to coil into a tight ball.

The giant African millipede can live for more than seven years.


As the name suggests, the giant African millipede can be found in the rainforests throughout Africa. They can usually be found living under rocks, in most soil and leaves. They prefer moist climates and are mainly active at night.

Since millipedes eat the dead plant materials lying on the ground, they are considered “nutrient recyclers,” making them a valuable organism for the environment. By breaking down dead leaves and other plant parts, millipedes facilitate the actions of other smaller soil decomposers, such as bacteria.

Social Behavior

Giant African millipedes are gentle, slow moving creatures.

Status In The Wild

Not threatened.


The Giant African millipede can be seen in the Insect Zoo, which is located just inside the Children’s Zoo.

Animals & Exhibits