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Insects and other arthropods

Centipedes

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Scutigera coleoptrata

Tabs group

Description

Centipedes are myriapods They are part of the Chilopoda class, which includes around 3,500 known species. This small animal can grow to a length of 2.6 cm. On its head are a pair of long filiform antennae that act as auditory receptors. Its segmented body, which ranges from beige to greyish yellow in colour, is often marked by three darker stripes running lengthwise along its back. Its belly is whitish.

Centipedes have long, thin legs with alternating light and dark stripes. Its back legs are longer than its front legs, allowing the insect to run more quickly, as its back legs can move close to its front legs without interference. Its last pair of legs contains sensory organs and is not used for locomotion, but acts a bit like a second pair of antennae situated at the other extremity of the body.

Life cycle

During mating, the male and female touch each other with their antennae and move in a circle. The male’s sperm is contained in a small, thin-walled pouch called a spermatophore. During the mating dance, the male places the spermatophore on the ground. The female then places herself on the small pouch, letting it penetrate her genital area, where it fertilizes her eggs.

Eggs are laid individually on the ground. Depending on her size, a female may lay from 130 to 290 eggs. When they are born, centipedes only have the beginning of legs. The number of segments these appendages have increases little by little over the course of six moults. When its legs are fully formed, the centipede undergoes four more moults that enable it to grow and reach sexual maturity.

Geographic distribution

Originally from Europe, this species was probably introduced into North America by the first ships that sailed to the continent. It has spread to many countries across the world and is now a cosmopolitan arthropod.

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