Pill millipede

Pill millipedes are any members of two living (and one extinct) orders of millipedes, often grouped together into a single superorder, Oniscomorpha. The name Oniscomorpha refers to the millipedes' resemblance to certain woodlice (Oniscidea), also called pillbugs or "roly-polies". However, millipedes and woodlice are not closely related (belonging to the subphyla Myriapoda and Crustacea, respectively); rather, this is a case of convergent evolution.

Pill millipedes
Pillmillipede talakaveri.jpg
A giant pill millipede from India.
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Myriapoda
Class: Diplopoda
Subclass: Chilognatha
Infraclass: Pentazonia
Superorder: Oniscomorpha
Pocock, 1887 [1]

Armadillomorpha Verhoeff, 1915


Pill millipedes are relatively short-bodied compared to most other millipedes, with only eleven to thirteen body segments,[2] and are capable of rolling into a ball (volvation) when disturbed, as a defense against predators. This ability evolved separately in each of the two orders, making it a case of convergent evolution, rather than homology. They can also exude a noxious liquid, which may be both caustic and toxic, to repel predators.[3] Pill millipedes are detritivorous, feeding on decomposing plant matter, usually in woodlands.[4]

Comparison of a pill millipede (above: Glomeris marginata) and a pillbug (below: Armadillidium vulgare)



The order Glomerida is predominantly found in the Northern Hemisphere and includes species such as Glomeris marginata, the common European pill millipede. They have from eleven to twelve body segments, and possess dorsal ozopores (openings of the repugnatorial glands) rather than the lateral ozopores found on many other millipedes.[3] Glomeridans reach maximum lengths of 20 mm (0.79 in), and eyes, if present, are in a single row of ocelli.[5] The order contains approximately 450 species[6] found in Europe, South-east Asia and the Americas from California to Guatemala.[7] Four species are present in the British Isles.[8]


The order Sphaerotheriida is a Gondwana-distribution taxon, with around 350 species in southern Africa, Madagascar,[9] Australasia[10] and South East Asia.[7] Five species, all in the genus Procyliosoma are present in New Zealand,[10] and around thirty species are present in Australia.[11] Sphaerotheriidans have thirteen body segments, and do not possess repugnatorial glands. Spherotheriidans reach larger size than Glomeridans (up to 10 cm (3.9 in)), and always possess large, kidney-shaped eyes.[5]


Oniscomorpha also includes the extinct order Amynilyspedida from the upper Carboniferous of North America and Europe.[2][12] Amynilyspedida differs from the other Oniscomorph orders in having 14–15 segments.[13] The order contains the genus Amynilyspes with unique spines on the tergites, as well as Glomeropsis, Archiscudderia, and Palaeosphaeridium.[2]


  1. ^ Shear, W. (2011). "Class Diplopoda de Blainville in Gervais, 1844. In: Zhang, Z.-Q. (Ed.) Animal biodiversity: An outline of higher-level classification and survey of taxonomic richness" (PDF). Zootaxa. 3148: 159–164.
  2. ^ a b c P. R. Racheboeuf, J. T. Hannibal & J. Vannier (2004). "A new species of the diplopod Amynilyspes (Oniscomorpha) from the Stephania lagerstätte of Montceau-les-Mines, France". Journal of Paleontology. 78 (1): 221–229. doi:10.1666/0022-3360(2004)078<0221:ANSOTD>2.0.CO;2. JSTOR 4094852. Archived from the original on 2011-09-29. Retrieved 2007-06-24.
  3. ^ a b "Defining Features of Nominal Clades of Diplopoda" (PDF). Field Museum of Natural History. Retrieved June 24, 2007.
  4. ^ "Pill millipedes". Australian Museum. Retrieved December 22, 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Diagnostic features of Millipede Orders" (PDF). Milli-PEET Identification Tables. The Field Museum, Chicago. Retrieved 25 October 2013.
  6. ^ Golovatch, Sergei; Mauriès, Jean-Paul; Akkari, Nesrine; Stoev, Pavel; Geoffroy, Jean-Jacques (2009). "The millipede genus Glomeris Latreille, 1802 (Diplopoda, Glomerida, Glomeridae) in North Africa" (PDF). ZooKeys. 12: 47–86. doi:10.3897/zookeys.12.179.
  7. ^ a b "Biogeography of millipede families" (PDF). Field Museum of Natural History. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 29, 2007. Retrieved June 24, 2007.
  8. ^ "Millipedes of Britain and Ireland: systematic check list". British Myriapod and Isopod Group. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
  9. ^ Wesener, T.; Bespalova, I.; Sierwald, P. (2010). "Madagascar's living giants: discovery of five new species of endemic giant pill-millipedes from Madagascar (Diplopoda: Sphaerotheriida: Arthrosphaeridae: Zoosphaerium)". African Invertebrates. 51 (1): 133–161. doi:10.5733/afin.051.0102.
  10. ^ a b M. A. Minor & A.W. Robertson (May 7, 2007). "Diplopoda". Guide to New Zealand soil invertebrates. Massey University.
  11. ^ "Checklist for Sphaerotheriida Brandt, 1833". Australian Faunal Directory. Department of the Environment and Water Resources. Retrieved November 7, 2010.
  12. ^ Hoffman, R. L. 1969. Myriapoda, exclusive of Insecta. In Treatise on Invertebrate Paleontology, Pt. R, Arthropoda 4, ed. RC Moore, 2:R572–606. Geological Society of America, Inc., and The University of Kansas.
  13. ^ Hannibal, Joseph T; Feldmann, Rodney M. (1981). "Systematics and Functional Morphology of Oniscomorph Millipedes (Arthropoda: Diplopoda) from the Carboniferous of North America". Journal of Paleontology. 55 (4): 730–746. JSTOR 1304421.

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