Thursday, 24 June 2010

Mating in Millipedes

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Millipedes are commonly found around decomposing litter. The word “millipede” literally translates as “thousand legs” in Latin. However, millipedes have far less than thousand legs. They have two pairs of legs per body segment except on the first 3 segments. The first segment lacks any legs, while the nest two have only one pair each. The large number of legs possessed by the millipede are useful for ploughing through litter.

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There are many different types of millipedes. The ones featured here are the yellow-spotted millipede (Harpaphe haydeniana), also known as the almond-scented or cyanide millipede, as it has the ability to secrete hydrogen cyanide when threatened.

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During mating season, males and females are brought together by pheromones emitted by the male. These pheromones are only thought to effective at short distances.

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Before mating, in nearly all species, the male millipede charges his secondary sexual organs from his primary ones by curling its body forward so the spermatophore from his Gonopores on the 3rd body segment can be transferred to his Gonopods (means 'sex-legs') on the 7th body segment.

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Millipede mating involves the male, walking along the females back and stimulating her with rhythmic movements of his legs.

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The female then raises her front segments, allowing the male to entwines his body around her. When their genitalia are opposed to each other, sperm transfer occurs.

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The sperm transfer is accomplished when the male transfers a packet of sperm called the spermatophore to the female, via the Gonopods. The spermatophore is inserted into the female spermathecae, where she will store it

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While some species mate multiple times, others do so only once. This pair lost interest as soon as the act was completed, and the male went its way.

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The females, then build a nest within litter and lay as many as 2000 eggs within. The young ones will hatch within this nest, commonly with only 3 pairs of legs but as they eat their way into the next moult as they grow larger and grow more legs.

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