Antichiropus variabilisCommon name: Marri Millipede

Meaning of name: The meaning of Antichiropus is unknown. Variabilis is a Latin word meaning variable. It was named this because, when first described, it appeared to vary in size. However, it was later realised that they were looking at different species.

Distribution: This millipede can be found in Perth and along the Darling Scarp. They are associated with Marri trees, Corymbia calophylla, from around Bindoon and Toodyay in the north to Manjimup in the south.

Remarks: This native millipede grows up to 4.5cm long and feeds on decaying leaf litter, primarily from Marri, Corymbia calophylla, trees. It is thought to live for at least two years but dies shortly after mating and laying its eggs.

It differs from the introduced Portuguese Millipede, Ommatoiulus moreletii, by being chestnut brown in colour and having a bumpy appearance, like a string of beads. Portuguese Millipedes are black and look smooth.

The Marri Millipede comes out to find a mate after rain as it must be in a moist environment. When it is dry, like in summer, the millipede buries itself underground. Some millipedes have been found two metres down.

These millipedes have the ability to release hydrogen cyanide as a defence when they are stressed or threatened. In confines spaces, this is able to kill other millipedes (and themselves if they can’t get away).

References: Based on a talk at the WA Insect Study Society presented by Cathy Car, WA Museum.

Optimised captive husbandry conditions for the Western Australian ‘Marri Millipede’ Antichiropus variabilis. Janine M. Wojcieszek, Mark S. Harvey and Michael G. Rix. 2010 http://museum.wa.gov.au/sites/default/files/RecWAMuseum_2010_26(1)_87to93_WOJCIESZEKetal.pdf

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