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Centipede Information – Your Full Information To Centipedes

Centipede info, footage and knowledge. Discover out precisely what a centipede is, what centipedes eat, the place they’re discovered, and far more…

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What Is a Centipede?

A centipede is an invertebrate predator within the class Chilopoda. A centipede has an extended, segmented physique with one pair of legs per phase (not like a millipede, which has two pairs of legs per phase).

The identify “centipede” comes from the Latin centi (hundred) + pedis (foot), however the precise variety of toes varies: the frequent home centipede Scutigera coleoptrata has 30 legs, whereas the southern European centipede Himantarium gabrielis can have greater than 350.

House Centipede
An grownup home centipede has fifteen pairs of legs.

Centipedes all the time have an odd variety of pairs of legs, that means that no centipede really has precisely 100 legs!

Centipedes are metameric, that means their our bodies are organized in clearly outlined segments. The top and tail segments are extremely specialised, however the center segments are all very comparable, every one bearing a single pair of legs.

Every pair of legs is longer than the pair in entrance. This ensures the centipede doesn’t journey over its personal legs!

How Many Centipede Species Are There?

There are an estimated 6,950 species of centipede scattered everywhere in the world, from the Arctic to the Amazon (some estimates put the full variety of centipede species at 8,000).

Lower than half of these species have been found and named thus far; the Catalogue of Life identifies 3,145 identified species of centipede. (Supply, twenty fifth Sept 2023)

Common desert centipede
Widespread desert centipede in Arizona, USA. Photograph: Richard N Horne, (cropped/resized by, CC BY-SA 4.0

Is A Centipede An Insect?

Though they appear like bugs, centipedes and bugs are solely distant family. Each centipedes and bugs (together with arachnids, crustaceans, and the traditional horseshoe crabs) belong to the phylum Arthropoda.

Common Desert Centipede Scolopendra polymorpha
Widespread desert centipede Scolopendra polymorpha, a species present in desert areas of North America

The arthropods are among the many oldest advanced animals, having developed round 500 million years in the past – in any case that point, it’s no shock they’ve developed a lot variety.

An irrational concern of centipedes is named chilopodophobia (the identify comes from Chilopoda, the scientific identify for centipedes).

Some species of centipede are remarkably attentive mother and father. Females will guard the eggs from predators and clear them to forestall an infection. In a number of species, this protecting conduct extends even after the eggs hatch.

New Zealand Giant Centipede
New Zealand large centipede

Are Centipedes Toxic?

Centipedes are venomous, however usually not sufficient to hurt people. Nonetheless, a centipede chunk may be painful, particularly from one of many bigger species. Like most stings, the most important dangers come not from the chunk itself however from the allergic response some folks expertise afterwards.

The centipede’s venom glands are positioned within the pincer-like claws (referred to as forciples) that undertaking from its head part.

Centipedes Glow In Ultraviolet Gentle

Bizarrely, centipedes glow underneath blacklight (Ultraviolet A). When you exit at evening with a standard UV-A flashlight, you’ll see centipedes (in addition to millipedes and scorpions) stand out like pale inexperienced lightbulbs.

Nobody is admittedly certain why – we all know one thing in regards to the chemical compounds that trigger the glow, however the evolutionary perform (if there’s one) remains to be a thriller.

World’s Largest Centipede

The most important centipede on the earth is the Amazonian large centipede (Scolopendra gigantea). The species, which is present in tropical forests of northern South America, particularly Colombia and Venezuela, routinely reaches 10” in size. Though the Guinness E-book of World Information states that 10” is the report for longest centipede, scientists have reported even longer specimens – greater than 12” in some instances.

Amazonian giant centipede
Amazonian large centipede. Photograph: Tod Baker, (cropped/resized by, CC BY-SA 2.0

Most centipedes eat small invertebrates, however the Amazonian large centipede is large enough to hunt mice, frogs, birds, and different comparatively giant prey. In a single collapse Venezuela, scientists found a inhabitants of large centipedes that dangle down from the ceiling, snatching bats out of the air and killing them with venom.

World’s Smallest Centipede

The largest centipedes are present in tropical rainforests, however the smallest could also be proper close to your entrance door. In 2002, scientists found a brand new species of centipede residing in New York’s Central Park. The species is called Hoffman’s dwarf centipede Nannarrup hoffmani.

At lower than half an inch lengthy, it was the smallest centipede ever found. Its discoverers assume it will not be native to New York, although, and should as an alternative have arrived from Asia on ships or airplanes.

Centipede With The Most Legs

Centipede with most legs Himantarium gabrielis
Centipede with most legs Himantarium gabrielis

The centipede thought to have probably the most legs is Himantarium gabrielis, a species present in Southern Europe from Portugal to Greece. Though a lot smaller than its Amazonian cousins (solely 5-8 inches in size), H. gabrielis has much more physique segments: as much as 179 within the largest males. At 2 legs per phase, that comes out at 354 legs.

Prehistoric Centipedes

Fossil centipedes date again to 430 million years in the past, making them one of many oldest still-living animal types. Centipedes have been among the many first animals to crawl out of the ocean and make a residing on land (millipedes and scorpions really received there first, however centipedes have been shut behind).

One speculation means that the primary land-living animals have been scavengers who would patrol the shore for washed-up corpses. As a result of nothing else might reside on the land, there was no competitors for these sources – and no predators to be cautious of, till the arrival of animals similar to early centipedes.

Can Centipedes Swim?

The traditional ancestors of centipedes have been aquatic or amphibious beach-combers, however immediately’s centipedes are all restricted to the land… or, no less than that’s what we used to assume.

In 2001, scientists found Scolopendra cataracta, a Southeast Asian cousin of the Amazonian large centipede.

S. cataracta, it seems, is a robust swimmer that may discover prey on land or in water. After lots of of hundreds of thousands of years, this one species appears to have re-evolved the aquatic life-style of its distant ancestors!

Centipedes vs Millipedes

Each centipedes and millipedes belong to the subphylum Myriapoda. Though they give the impression of being considerably comparable, with apply the distinction between centipede and millipede is straightforward to identify.

Whereas centipedes solely have two legs (i.e., one pair of legs) per phase, millipedes have 4 (i.e., two pairs of legs). That provides millipedes a way more “leggy” look.

A millipede: be aware the rounded physique with 2 pairs of legs per phase.

The legs of a centipede are splayed out to the edges quite than positioned straight underneath the physique, as is the case in millipedes.

Centipedes have a flat profile, whereas millipedes look extra rounded or tubular.

Brown Centipede Lithobius forficatus
Brown centipede, Lithobius forficatus, a species present in Europe and North America. Every phase of its physique has only a single pair of legs.

If it curls right into a ball when threatened, it’s a millipede. Centipedes desire to chunk after which run away.

Centipedes and millipedes have very totally different life. Centipedes are energetic predators, however millipedes are usually detritivores, that means they feed on decaying natural matter.

Centipedes and millipedes each have monumental variation in dimension, millipedes barely extra so. The smallest millipedes are solely a tenth of an inch in dimension, whereas the most important are as a lot as 15 inches.

So millipedes present better extremes at each ends of the dimensions spectrum. Prior to now, millipedes have been much more spectacular: Arthropleura, which lived in North America some 300 million years in the past, was 8 toes lengthy and a foot and a half huge.

What Do Centipedes Eat?

All centipedes are predators. They appear to have no specific desire in relation to prey and are joyful to go after no matter is sufficiently small to slot in their mouths. For probably the most half, which means small bugs and different invertebrates, however the largest centipedes can take vertebrate prey as properly.

As energetic hunters, some centipedes have developed to be extremely quick. The frequent home centipede is reckoned to be the quickest of all arthropods, with a most velocity of greater than a foot per second. (That’s lower than 1mph, however nonetheless lots quick for one thing so small.)

One secret to the centipede’s velocity is the association of its legs: the legs get longer as you progress again on the centipede’s physique, which retains the centipede from tripping over itself.

Are Centipedes Harmful?

Most centipedes use venom to kill their prey. As a result of centipede bites aren’t notably severe and never notably frequent, there was much less analysis into their venom than into the venom of snakes or bees, that are thought of extra medically related.

We do know that centipede venom is a neurotoxin, like scorpion venom however not like bee venom. And a 2018 paper means that the bigger centipedes have a singular, fast-acting compound of their venom that helps them immobilize giant and doubtlessly harmful prey similar to rodents.

Home centipedes are a standard sight in American properties, although usually an unwelcome one. They’re ugly, with wide-splayed legs and lengthy antennae, and their fast actions freak folks out. However they’re innocent, and actually could also be useful: by looking cockroaches, moths, termites, and different pests, they’ll really forestall harm to homes. They’re like tiny, creepy little exterminators.

Nonetheless, despite the fact that the centipedes themselves are innocent, a big inhabitants of home centipedes may be a sign of underlying issues. Simply because the presence of lions signifies a wholesome inhabitants of huge herbivores, having home centipedes in all probability means there are many different bugs round for them to feed on.

Additional Studying And References

‘Horrific’ First Amphibious Centipede Found (

Luminous Magnificence: The Secret World of Fluorescent Arthropods | WIRED

Centipede or Millipede? What’s the Distinction? – Carnegie Museum of Pure Historical past (

Home Centipede | Workplace for Environmental Packages Outreach Providers (

Lethal part of centipede venom recognized | Analysis | Chemistry World

Adis, J., & Harvey, M. S. (2000). What number of Arachnida and Myriapoda are there world-wide and in Amazonia? Research on Neotropical Fauna and Atmosphere, 35(2), 139–141.;1-9;FT139

Lewis, J. G. E. (2006). The Biology of Centipedes. Cambridge College Press.

Molinari, J., Gutiérrez, E., De Ascencao, A., Sar, M., Arends, A., & Már-Quez, R. (2005). Predation by large centipedes, Scolopendra gigantea, on three species of bats in a Venezuelan cave. Caribbean Journal of Science, 41, 340–346.

Shelley, R., & Kiser, S. (2000). Neotype designation and a diagnostic account for the centipede, Scolopendra gigantea L. 1758, with an account of S. galapagoensis Bollman 1889 (Chilopoda Scolopendromorpha Scolopendridae). Tropical Zoology – TROP ZOOL, 13, 159–170.

Stewart, B. (2002, July 24). A New Type of New Yorker, One With 82 Legs (Printed 2002). The New York Instances.

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