Archispirostreptus gigas, the giant African millipede, is one of the largest millipedes, growing up to 38.5 centimetres (15.2 in) in length, 67 millimetres (2.6 in) in circumference. It has approximately 256 legs, although the number of legs changes with each molting so it can vary according to each individual.
It is a widespread species in lowland parts of East Africa, from Mozambique to Kenya, but rarely reaches altitudes above 1,000 metres (3,300 ft). It lives mostly in forests, but can also be found in areas of coastal habitat which contain at least a few trees. It is known in Zulu as amashongololo. It is also native to Southern Arabia, especially in Dhofar.
A. gigas is black in colour, and is often kept as a pet. In general, giant millipedes have a life expectancy of about 5–7 years. Giant millipedes have two main modes of defence if they feel threatened: curling into a tight spiral exposing only the hard exoskeleton, and secretion of an irritating liquid from pores on their body. This liquid can be harmful if introduced into the eyes or mouth.
Small mites are often observed crawling on their exoskeleton and amongst their legs. The millipedes have a symbiotic relationship with these mites, in which the mites help clean the millipedes exoskeleton in exchange for food and the protection of their host.
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