For the rest of the school year, the Beverly Glen Computer Lab plays host to thirty baby Giant African Millipedes (Archispirostreptus gigas). This species is among the largest in the world. Millipedes are harmless detritivores (eaters of rotting things).
Giant African millipedes can grow to be 12 inches long (that's more than THIRTY centimeters!). For every
body segment, the millipede has two pairs of legs, so they give the
appearance of having hundreds of legs. When born, they only have three
pairs of legs, and as they grow, they increase in size and add segments
with each molt. In order to grow, they must go through a series of
molts which can be dangerous. Before going into molt, the millipede
must find a safe place to hide, because during this time, they are
vulnerable to attack. All together, millipedes spent about 10% of their
lives in molts. Some millipedes do not have eyes (our class pets have eyes - though they don't see very well), but all have antennae
and jaws to chew on plants. When threatened, they can excrete a
foul-tasting and smelling fluid from specialized stink glands. Their
main line of defense is to coil into a tight ball. The Giant African Millipede can live up to seven years!
Ms. Bromley brought them from her tank at home, where she has nearly one hundred other millipedes (who are also all named Wesley). These animals were hatched from eggs during August 2005 right here in Toronto.
In the wild, as their name suggests, the Giant African Millipede can be found in the rainforests of Africa. They usually live under rocks, in moist soil, and in leaf litter. They prefer humid climates, and are mainly active at night (they are nocturnal).
Since millipedes eat the dead plant materials lying on the ground, they are considered "nutrient recyclers", making them a valuable organism for the environment. By breaking down dead leaves and other plant parts, millipedes help other soil decomposers, such as bacteria.
Parents can read Ms. Bromley's handy-dandy Bright Idea.
A girl walks into a pet shop, looking for the PERFECT pet. She has had pretty much every animal, and has - so far - been unimpressed. Wasting no time at all, the girl marches right up to the manager, and asks him what he recommends. With a completely straight face, he suggests a millipede.
Shocked at the suggestion of a bug, she shreiks, "MILLIPEDE?! Who'd want a silly little millipede?!"
The pet shop manager, keeping a cool head, replies, "Who wouldn't? Everyone KNOWS that they're brilliant thinkers. I'll bet that if you brought this millipede home with you, the EQAO would be a breeze!"
Right away, the girl's mind is changed. She pays the manager, and takes her new pet home. After setting up the millipede's tank, the girl goes outside to play. About half an hour later, she comes back in, walks up to the aquarium, and says, "Listen, Millipede. I'm doing a presentation on Canadian Natives for school tomorrow, and I could really use your help. I was wondering...could you come to my class with me as a special guest expert?"
Just as she expects, there is no answer. Grumbling (and slightly irritated), she goes to eat dinner. After dinner, she again asks the millipede if it will come to school with her, and AGAIN gets no reply.
The next morning, the girl is in a rush to get into the car...and frankly, she's a little irritated that the millipede has been ignoring her. In a last attempt to invite the millipede along, she says, "Listen, you! I've been nice. I've asked kindly...but you kept ignoring me. I'm fed up! I'd really like an answer this time! Are you going to come with me, or AREN'T YOU!?"
And then, an eensy-weensy, itsy-bitsy voice comes from the tank...
"I heard you the first time. I wasn't ignoring you...I was putting on my shoes!"