November 1, 2015
When we teach about arthropods, it can be difficult to illustrate that ALL of these animals have segmented bodies. When you’ve never seen an arthropod up close, it is a tricky idea to wrap your mind around. We often use use millipedes in our teaching as a great example of a fully segmented body on an animal. But now I have cool microscopes from Celestron, so I can show you what I’m talking about! I took all of the pictures shown in this post with the FlipView Portable digital microscope. It’s great for handheld shots where you need to be flexible with the angle of the scope. I deal with a lot of live bugs, so I need to shoot fast and not be held back by a big bulky set-up. The FlipView worked great!
In the picture above, you can clearly see the segments on this millipede. As these animals grow, they add segments and legs! When a millipede dies, the ring-like segments of exoskeleton are left behind.
This millipede was not happy about being photographed. She coiled up in a defensive stance and started to leak a noxious fluid from her repugnatorial glands located on the sides of her body. Millipedes leak this fluid to deter predators from eating them. In some species of millipede, the fluid contains cyanide compounds! Can you see the yellowish tinge on the exoskeleton in the above photo? That fluid tastes REALLY BAD. I have tasted it. I am a scientist. I am dedicated to my craft. Plus, I got sick of kids asking me what it tastes like, so I gathered some data. It is very bitter- a little like dirt juice or aspirin juice and the taste can linger on your tongue for many hours, even if you brush your teeth, drink mouthwash, eat Sriracha or suck on a Tootsie Pop. I do the hard work of you.