The creepy crawlies of the bug world, Millipedes are found in places all over the world, and they can be very important to the recycling of a forest’s ecosystem.
Millipedes are on all continents save Antarctica. They also inhabit all ranges of climates from that of the Arctic Circle locales such as Iceland, Norway and Siberia to the warmer tropical climates and back to the colder regions of Argentina in the south. In Costa Rica, they can be found at La Selva Biological Station, Braulio Carillo National Park, Juan Castro Blanco National Park and Cahuita National Park to name a few.
Mating & Reproduction
Some millipedes reproduce via copulation, whereas others do so by way of depositing sperm into a web which is then picked up by the female. There are some species of millipedes that are asexual. Most copulation between millipedes takes place with the two creatures facing each other.
Females lay from ten to three hundred eggs at one time. The eggs are fertilized from stored sperm as they are laid. Many species abandon the eggs after they have been laid, but in some, parental care is provided. The eggs hatch, and usually only have three pairs of legs. Over time they develop more legs and segments.
Almost all millipedes are detritivores meaning that they feed on decomposing vegetation, feces and other organic material found in the substrate. In this way, millipedes are very important in the process of breaking down leaf litter on the forest floor. Other species of millipedes feed on algae and fungi, and still others are omnivores. The omnivores that are carnivorous will feed on insects, centipedes, earthworms and snails.
The primary defense mechanism of millipedes is to roll into a ball when threatened. Other Millipedes can emit a noxious secretion that can be anything from alkaloid to hydrogen cyanide.
Costa Rican millipedes are preyed on by a number of animals. Coatis, a type of mammal that resembles a raccoon, that live in the wild will feast on a bed of millipedes if found. Another predator of millipedes in Costa Rica is the Assassin Bug which is sometimes also known as the kissing bug.
Capuchin monkeys will intentionally antagonize certain millipedes into spraying them with their noxious secretions. The capuchins then rub themselves with the toxin in order to repel mosquitoes.
Locations in Costa Rica: La Selva Biological Station, Braulio Carillo National Park, Juan Castro Blanco National Park, Cahuita National Park
Diet: decaying matter, fungi, algae, insects, centipedes, earthworms, snails
Migration Pattern: non-migratory
Species: Nyssodesmus python, Catharosomatini Brolemann, Alogolykus Graphisternini