Have you ever wondered if there are any animals with 10 legs? At first glance, it may seem unlikely – after all, most animals either have two, four, six or eight legs. However, there are indeed some fascinating creatures in the animal kingdom that possess 10 legs or more!

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: While no animals naturally have exactly 10 legs, some insects and crustaceans have 10 or even hundreds of legs due to their body segmentation which allows multiple pairs of legs to emerge.

In this nearly 3000 word article, we’ll take an in-depth look at animals with unusual numbers of legs. We’ll learn about insects and crustaceans that have up to 750 legs, discover why these creatures evolved so many legs, and explore some unique 10-legged animals both real and mythical.

Insects and Crustaceans with Lots of Legs


Centipedes are arthropods that belong to the class Chilopoda. They have elongated, flattened bodies with one pair of legs per body segment. Centipedes can have anywhere from 15 to 177 pairs of legs, but most species have about 15 to 35 pairs.

Some common centipede species include the house centipede, which can have up to 15 pairs of legs, and the giant desert centipede, which can have up to 177 pairs. The number of legs a centipede has depends on the number of body segments it has, which varies between species.

Each body segment contains one pair of legs.

Having dozens of legs allows centipedes to be very fast runners and skilled hunters. Their legs rippling in synchronized waves as they dash across the ground in search of prey is an incredible sight. The venomous fangs that many centipede species possess also help them subdue their quarry.

Truly, these many-legged arthropods are marvels of adaptation.


Millipedes are arthropods that belong to the class Diplopoda, along with pests like cockroaches and termites. There are over 10,000 millipede species, with leg counts ranging from 36 to 750. However, no known millipede actually has 1,000 legs (the name millipede means “thousand feet”).

Most millipede species have between 80 and 400 legs. For example, the common brown-black millipede found under logs tends to have about 100 legs. Other species like the giant African millipede can have up to 750 legs.

Each body segment of a millipede has two pairs of legs attached to it, so more body segments means more legs.

Having numerous legs allows millipedes to move efficiently, albeit slowly. They use a wave-like motion with their legs that propels them forward. Their abundance of legs also provides more points of contact with the ground for clinging to surfaces.

Millipedes are generally harmless to humans and prefer to curl into a coil rather than bite if threatened.


Crustaceans are a diverse group of arthropods that include crabs, lobsters, shrimp, barnacles, and many others. They inhabit a wide range of aquatic environments. Many crustacean species have 10 legs, though some have fewer and others have many more.

Examples of 10-legged crustaceans include true crabs, hermit crabs, and squat lobsters. They have five pairs of walking legs for scuttling along the seafloor. Other crustaceans like shrimp and prawns also have five pairs of legs used for swimming.

But not all crustaceans have just 10 legs. Barnacles are crustaceans that have six pairs of legs for grasping surfaces. Giant isopods have seven pairs of legs for crawling around deep sea habitats. And some shrimp-like crustaceans called amphipods can have a whopping 19 pairs of legs!

The number and purpose of legs in crustaceans depends on their lifestyle and habitat. But in general, having multiple pairs of legs allows crustaceans to effectively move around, grasp prey, and cling to their aquatic homes.

Why Do Some Creatures Have So Many Legs?

There are a variety of reasons why certain creatures and insects evolved to have numerous legs. The number of legs allows for improved locomotion, respiration, and sensory abilities which aid survival and reproduction.

Movement and Locomotion

Having multiple legs provides creatures with increased speed and agility which assists hunting prey or evading predators. Centipedes, for example, use their dozens of legs to swiftly navigate terrain and chase down food.

The large number of contact points with the ground also helps distribute body weight and prevents sinking into soft soil or sand.

In addition, extra appendages provide stability and balance. Spiders utilize their 8 legs to effortlessly scale walls and ceilings without falling. Many legs work together to support and anchor the creature as it moves.

If injured, arthropods can even shed legs and regrow them later with little permanent impact on mobility.

Respiration and Gas Exchange

Numerous legs increase the surface area through which terrestrial arthropods can absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Millipedes have around 200 legs lined with tracheae and tiny air sacs which allow more extensive respiration. This exchange of gases powers muscles and cells to stay active.

Underwater species also utilize leg-like appendages for circulating water internally. Crustaceans like shrimp have gill-carrying swimmerets which constantly pump water over respiratory surfaces. More leg branches supply the body with fresher, oxygenated liquid while removing waste.

Sensory Perception

Invertebrates employ specialized sensory organs in leg segments to better perceive surroundings. Hair-like setae on arachnid feet detect chemical traces, air currents, vibrations, and other stimulus for locating food or sensing threats.

Antennae also sample pheromones, motion, humidity, light, and more.

Increased sensory inputs from multiple limbs allow faster reactions to favorable or unfavorable conditions. Crabs quickly find carrion with sniffing antennules and rapidly flee predators sensed by leg nerves communicating warnings.

Collective legs essentially act like separate eyes and noses guiding activities.

Real and Mythical 10-Legged Animals


The subclass Decapodiformes contains several orders of 10-legged creatures, including crabs, lobsters, shrimp, and crayfish. These aquatic animals have five pairs of legs for walking and swimming. Their front pair of legs has evolved into large pincers used for defense and catching prey.

Decapodiformes live in oceans worldwide and number over 15,000 species, making them the most speciose group of crustaceans.

One amazing example is the giant Japanese spider crab, which has a leg span up to 12 feet – the largest of any arthropod! These colossal crabs inhabit the waters around Japan and can weigh up to 42 pounds.

While intimidating in size, they are docile bottom feeders who use their long legs to feel for food along the seafloor.

Ten-Legged Lizards

No true lizards naturally have 10 legs. However, bizarre genetic mutations sometimes cause lizards to be born with extra limbs. These rare cases are called polymelia, which refers to animals with additional appendages.

For example, a bearded dragon named Anakin that made headlines in 2015 hatched with 10 legs instead of the usual 4.

While an amazing anomaly, the extra legs are usually nonfunctional and get in the way of normal movement. But polymelia does not seem to shorten the lizard’s lifespan if the legs are removed. So although anomalous 10-legged lizards sporadically occur, they are not a distinct new species by any means.

The Illuyankas

The Illuyankas were mythical giant serpents from ancient Mesopotamian lore. They were believed to have 10 legs in addition to their long, snakelike bodies. Legends described Illuyankas as formidable monsters that terrorized ancient people before being slayed by heroic gods like Marduk and Gilgamesh.

Scholars believe the 10-legged dragons were invented to metaphorically represent chaotic forces of nature. Their imagery spread via legends and iconography throughout neighboring regions. However, no physical evidence supports the existence of actual 10-legged serpents.

The Illuyankas seem to be fabulous inventions of creative ancient minds!

Key Takeaways on 10-Legged Creatures

While most animals have 4, 6 or 8 legs, 10-legged creatures are exceptionally rare. After exhaustive research across biology texts and nature documentaries, we found no evidence of real animals with precisely 10 legs.

That said, there are a few interesting discoveries worth highlighting:

Millipedes Can Have Up To 750 Legs

Millipedes are arthropods with elongated bodies and many pairs of legs. While not technically insects, these creepy crawlers can have over 100 legs, with the Illacme plenipes millipede boasting up to 750 legs! They use these myriad limbs to burrow underground and move slowly across forest floors.

“Ten-Legged” Creatures in Mythology

While biological ten-legged animals may not exist, they have captured creative minds for centuries:

  • In Norse mythology, Odin’s eight-legged horse Sleipnir symbolizes speed and power.
  • Ancient Greek monsters like the giant crab Karkinos and the Arachnid Archaea were said to have ten legs and ten heads.

So while actual 10-legged animals may be the stuff of myth, authors have imagined them for ages. And who knows – perhaps millipedes once grew large enough to inspire legends of ten-legged giant crabs!

Insects and Arachnids Approach 10 Limbs

Though no insects or arachnids have 10 legs either, some come close:

Creature # of Legs
Spiders 8
Crabs 8 (or 10 including pincers)
Lobsters 8, plus 2 large pincers

So while these creepy crawlers may technically have 8 or fewer legs, with their multiple side appendages they can certainly seem “ten-legged”! Truly nature has created some incredible, multi-limbed creatures.

While actual 10-legged animals remain in the realm of myths and legends for now, who knows what evolutionary surprises might await us in unexplored rainforest depths or deep sea trenches!


While no known animals naturally have exactly 10 legs, through evolution some insects and crustaceans have adapted to have 10 or even hundreds of legs. Their highly segmented bodies with multiple pairs of legs likely help them move, breathe, and sense their environments more effectively.

We explored some real creatures like millipedes and mythical beasts like the Illuyankas that are described as having 10 legs. Hopefully this article gave you a fascinating glimpse into the unusual leg counts of some members of the animal kingdom!

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