Giant Millipede
Desert Millipede

Orthoporus ornatus

Orthoporus ornaatus photo © by Michael Plagens

Image taken near Vulture Peak, s. of Wickenburg, Maricopa Co., Arizona. Oct. 6, 2002. This is an empty, partially sun-bleached, exoskeleton - what's left of a dead animal after a few months.

Spirostreptidae -- a Millipede Family

The class name for millipedes, Diplopoda, refers to the two pairs of legs for each of the many body segments. Sun-bleached skeletons of the Giant Millipede are often found on the soil surface in the Sonoran Desert. The millipedes, 10 cm or more long, lead a mostly secluded life beneath the soil. The best time to find live millipedes above surface is after a summer rain. At Vekol Valley I found several feeding at canid scat (dog or coyote dung); others were found crawling up into creosote bushes. I could not discover if they were feeding there.

Orthoporus ornatus photo © Mike Plagens

During the summer monsoon of 2008 many adults were found patrolling the surface in Vekol Valley, Sonoran Desert National Monument, Arizona. When disturbed they curl up protecting their soft venter and legs. One week later many, many dead were found all across the creosote flats; having mated and laid there eggs their life was at an end.

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, page created 12 Feb. 2003,
updated 16 Feb. 2021.