Centipede : Crawling in the night
Creepy crawlies or intelligent species, whichever way you look, the multi-legged wonders are hard-working terrestrial creatures.
Centipedes and millipedes are not insects but are more closely related to lobsters, crayfish and shrimp. However, unlike their marine cousins, millipedes and centipedes are land dwellers. Centipedes are an amazing group of animals, taxonomically they are most commonly considered to be part of the Myriapoda along with the Millipedes
All Centipedes have numerous body segments with one pair of legs per segment, the number of leg-bearing segments and hence pairs of legs ranges from 15 to 177, but is always an odd number. The legs on the first body segment are modified into venom bearing fangs that the Centipedes use to hunt their food. The body segments are flattened and some or all of them bear spiracles for breathing, the actual number varies between orders. Centipedes generally have a single claw at the end of each leg which they walk or run on, except the fast-moving species which have a multi-articulate foot with numerous hairs to help them get a better grip on the ground.
Centipedes have no waxy waterproofing layer on their cuticle; hence they tend to be limited in terms of distribution to damp or moist situations and are generally found in leaf litter in woods and forests or in rotting timber. All Centipedes are primarily nocturnal, or below ground hunters and are shy of the light, though some species of are seen actively at times in daylight as well. All Centipedes are also primarily carnivorous; however, some will eat plant material as well and can sometimes occur in such large numbers as to be considered a pest.
Centipedes prey on insects, spiders and other small animals, being considered beneficial to humans. The last pair of hind legs is modified to lasso and hold the victims until they are paralyzed by venom from the jaws connected to poison glands. However, the jaws of centipedes are weak and can rarely penetrate human skin. The rare individuals who are bitten may experience localized swelling and pain no worse than a bee sting. People who are allergic to insect venom’s and other toxins may suffer severe reactions to the venom of a centipede.
Males spin a small web onto which they deposit a sperm for the female to take up, sometimes there is a courtship dance, and sometimes the males just leave them for the females to find. In temperate areas, egg-laying occurs in Spring and Summer but in subtropical and tropical areas there appears to be little seasonality to Centipede breeding. Females show far more parental care, the eggs, 15 – 60 in number, are laid in a nest in the soil, or in rotten wood. The female stays with the eggs, guarding and licking them to protect them from fungi. The female in some species stays with the young after they have hatched, guarding them until they are ready to leave. If disturbed the females tend to either abandon the eggs or young or to eat them, while the abandoned eggs tend to fall prey to fungi rapidly. Some species give birth to living young. Centipedes are long-lived, sometimes living up to 6 years.
Cover Pic: Tiger Centipede
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