Other Common Names
Fuzzy Millipede, Pincushion Millipede
6 spp. in our area, ~30 total(1)
Known North American occurrences from (2)
P. fasciculatus: MD‒TX‒IL
P. lagurus: much of the US and Eurasia
P. pugetensis: OR, WA, BC?
P. anacapensis: Channel Islands off so.CA.
typically, litter and bark, also commonly on rocks and old walls (Wright & Westh 2006)
Quinn (2000) collected >900 spmns throughout Mar‒Aug sampling in central Texas. They were fairly evenly present on live oak, cedar elm and juniper, but less than 20 were found on red oak(3)
algal films and lichens (Wright & Westh 2006)
P. fasciculatus defends itself against ants by use of a pair of bristle tufts at its rear. When attacked, it wipes the tufts against the ants, thereby causing these to become encumbered by bristles that detach from the tufts. Ants contaminated with bristles desist from their assault. The bristles have grappling hooks at the tip by which they lock onto setae of the ants and barbs along their length by which they interlink. In attempting to rid themselves of bristles, ants may succeed only in further entangling themselves by causing the bristles to become enmeshed. Ants heavily contaminated may remain entangled and die. Most millipedes have chemical defenses; polyxenids, instead, have a mechanical weapon. (Eisner et al. 1996)
often active in warm and dry conditions and direct sunlight.
Eisner T., Eisner M., Deyrup M. (1996) Millipede defense: use of detachable bristles to entangle ants. PNAS 93: 10848–10851. Full text
Wright J.C., Westh P. (2006) Water vapour absorption in the penicillate millipede Polyxenus lagurus
(Diplopoda: Penicillata: Polyxenida): microcalorimetric analysis of uptake kinetics. J. Exp. Biol. 209: 2486‒2494. (Full text