From WikiMD's Wellness Encyclopedia

Eupolybothrus cavernicolus forcipules
Centipede ultimate legs collage
Millipede centipede side-by-side
Strigeria Centipede guarding eggs
European roller

Centipedes (Chilopoda) are arthropods belonging to the class Chilopoda of the subphylum Myriapoda, which also includes millipedes and other multi-legged creatures. Centipedes are elongated metameric creatures with one pair of legs per body segment. Despite the name, which stems from the Latin centi- ("hundred") and pede ("foot"), centipedes can have a varying number of legs, ranging from 30 to 354. Centipedes are found in an array of terrestrial habitats from tropical rainforests to deserts.

Anatomy and Physiology[edit | edit source]

Centipedes have a wide variety of body forms. The body of a centipede is divided into a head and a segmented trunk. The head bears antennae, compound eyes (though some species are blind), and mouthparts. The first segment behind the head bears a pair of venomous claws called forcipules, which are used for hunting and defense. The number of trunk segments varies among species, each segment having a single pair of legs. Centipedes are predominantly carnivorous.

Habitat and Distribution[edit | edit source]

Centipedes are found in nearly every terrestrial habitat on Earth. They have adapted to live in moist microhabitats such as soil and leaf litter, under stones, and inside logs. Some species are adapted to desert environments, while others can be found in more temperate regions. They are nocturnal predators, feeding on insects, spiders, small birds, and reptiles.

Reproduction and Lifecycle[edit | edit source]

Centipedes lay eggs—sometimes in a nest, sometimes not. In some species, the female guards the eggs and, in some cases, the newly hatched young. The lifecycle of a centipede includes three stages: egg, nymph, and adult. Nymphs resemble adults but have fewer body segments and legs. They gain additional segments and legs with each molt until they reach adulthood.

Ecological Role[edit | edit source]

Centipedes play a significant role in the control of insect populations, acting as natural pest control. Their presence in an ecosystem indicates a healthy environment.

Human Interaction[edit | edit source]

While centipedes can bite humans if handled or threatened, their venom is not deadly but can cause pain, swelling, and redness. Some large species can penetrate human skin, causing discomfort similar to a bee sting.

Conservation[edit | edit source]

Centipedes are not generally considered endangered, but like many small invertebrates, they are susceptible to habitat destruction and pollution. Conservation efforts for centipedes focus on preserving their natural habitats.


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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD