Defensive Secretions of Millipeds

  • T. Eisner
  • D. Alsop
  • K. Hicks
  • J. Meinwald
Part of the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology / Handbuch der experimentellen Pharmakologie book series (HEP, volume 48)


The millipeds, comprising the arthropodan class Diplopoda, are a relatively uniform and unspectacular lot. Generally slow and sluggish despite their many legs, they are for the most part furtive vegetarian scavengers, active primarily at night. Only about 7500 species have been described (KAESTNER, 1968). In a numerical sense, therefore, and certainly relative to the insects, they represent one of the less successful experiments in terrestrial arthropodan evolution. But in another sense they are all but unsuccessful. They are an ancient group dating back to Devonian times, and they have held their own to this day, despite the evolutionary diversification of those very animals, the vertebrates, insects, and arachnids, that have come to include the primary predacious enemies of millipeds. Survival under hazardous conditions presupposes the possession of effective means of defense, and millipeds do indeed possess such means. Anyone who has collected these animals in the field is familiar with the odorous and often noxiously irritating fluids that so many of them emit when handled. These fluids are the products of special exocrine defensive glands that have evolved, quite clearly, for protection against predation. Much has been learned about the chemistry and biology of these glands. It is our purpose here to summarize this work.


Anthranilic Acid Aristolochic Acid Hydrogen Cyanide Cyanogenic Glycoside Defensive Secretion 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin/Heidelberg 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • T. Eisner
  • D. Alsop
  • K. Hicks
  • J. Meinwald

There are no affiliations available

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