From WikiMD's Wellness Encyclopedia


Centipedes (class Chilopoda) are elongated, metameric creatures with one pair of legs per body segment. Despite the name, which stems from the Latin centi- ("hundred") and pedes ("feet"), 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. Predominantly carnivorous, centipedes are known to be important in the control of other insect populations.

Anatomy and Physiology[edit | edit source]

Centipedes have a wide variety of body forms. The body is divided into a head and a segmented trunk. The first segment behind the head bears a pair of venomous claws called forcipules, used for both defense and to capture prey. The body segments have one pair of legs each, contrasting with the closely related millipedes, which have two pairs of legs per segment. Centipedes also have compound eyes, which are uncommon among Myriapods.

Habitat and Distribution[edit | edit source]

Centipedes are found in a wide range of environments on every continent except Antarctica. They inhabit moist microhabitats such as soil and leaf litter, under stones, and dead wood, and inside logs. Centipedes require a moist environment to survive because they lose water rapidly through their skin.

Behavior and Ecology[edit | edit source]

Centipedes are predominantly nocturnal and are considered important terrestrial predators. They feed on a variety of living and dead arthropods, including insects. Some larger species are capable of preying upon small vertebrates such as lizards and frogs. Centipedes themselves are preyed upon by creatures such as birds, toads, badgers, and spiders.

Reproduction[edit | edit source]

Centipede reproduction varies by species. Most centipedes lay eggs, but some species are ovoviviparous, meaning they give birth to live young. After fertilization, female centipedes often guard their eggs or young. The offspring go through a series of molts as they grow, gradually increasing their number of legs with each molt.

Classification[edit | edit source]

The class Chilopoda is divided into five orders: Scutigeromorpha, Lithobiomorpha, Craterostigmomorpha, Geophilomorpha, and Scolopendromorpha. These orders encompass over 3,000 described species. The diversity of centipedes is especially high in tropical regions.

Human Interaction[edit | edit source]

While centipedes can bite humans, it is rare for their venom to cause serious harm. The bite may be painful and can cause allergic reactions in some individuals. Centipedes are considered beneficial to humans because they help control populations of pests such as cockroaches and silverfish.


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Contributors: Prab R. Tumpati, MD