Histologic lesions of giant African millipedes (Archispirostreptus gigas) from a zoological institution

Martha A. Delaney, Alisha D. Pushinsky, Kirstin A. Cook, Kami Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Histopathologic data of millipedes are scarce. Little is known about health and disease of these invertebrates despite their exhibition at zoological institutions and use in ecotoxicological studies. In a retrospective study of 69 zoo-housed giant African millipedes (Archispirostreptus gigas) submitted between 2018 and 2021, most deaths occurred during midwinter and in 2021. The most common lesion was inflammation (n = 55; 80%). Necrosis was seen concurrently in 31 (45%) millipedes and of these, bacteria (20; 29%) and fungi (7; 10%) were detected in lesions. Inflammation was seen in the head/collum (20; 29%), hemocoel (16; 23%), and appendages (9; 13%), specifically in perivisceral fat body (42; 61%), gut (16; 23%), tracheae (26; 38%), skeletal muscle (24; 35%), and ventral nerve (17; 25%). Inflammatory cell types and patterns included agranular hemocytes (61; 88%), granular hemocytes (39; 57%), and nodulation/encapsulation (47; 68%) often accompanied by melanization. The oral cavity or gut (ingestion), spiracles (inhalation), or cuticular defects were considered plausible routes of bacterial entry. Metazoan parasites (adult nematodes: 2, 3%; trematode ova: 2, 3%; and arthropods: 1, 1%) were associated with gut necrosis and inflammation in 5 millipedes. In addition, adult nematodes were noted in the gut of 4 millipedes without lesions. Neoplasia was not detected in any millipedes. Speculatively, environmental factors may have predisposed to disease, as most deaths occurred during winter months. Disease surveillance of millipedes is critical to optimize husbandry practices in zoo populations and investigate potential impacts of environmental degradation and climate change on wild millipedes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)678-688
Number of pages11
JournalVeterinary pathology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • bacteria
  • diplopod
  • fungi
  • hemocytes
  • infection
  • invertebrate
  • millipede
  • perivisceral fat body

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Veterinary


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