Identification, Images, & Information
For Insects, Spiders & Their Kin
For the United States & Canada

Class Chilopoda - Centipedes

stone centipede - Lithobius forficatus Centipede Geophilomorpha 3.5 cm centipede Centipede house centipede - Scutigera coleoptrata Centipede NE California centipede
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Myriapoda (Myriapods)
Class Chilopoda (Centipedes)
Other Common Names
Rainworms, Hundred-leggers
Estimated ca. 8,000 spp. globally (<3,000 described) arranged into 23 families (9 in NA) and 5 orders (4 in NA); at least 8 spp. of our fauna are adventive(1)(2)
nearctic fauna poorly inventoried, with 54 spp. recorded in Canada alone (twice as many estimated)(3), prob. hundreds in the US
10-270+ mm worldwide; in our area, Scolopendra heros is the largest species, reaching ~150 mm
Antennae large; one pair of legs per body segment (15-191 pairs, always an odd number); hind legs extend backwards. All possess “poison claws” (prehensors, forcipules) under the head. Most centipedes run fast, but Geophilomorpha are rather sluggish.(1)
Worldwide; some range beyond the Arctic Circle(1)
wide variety of habitats; abundant in deserts(1)
under bark, in rotting logs, under stones or boards (4)
Primarily smaller arthropods, but larger spp. of Scolopendromorpha may attack (and feed on) small vertebrates; prey is killed by venom injected through the poison claws(1)
Larger species can inflict a painful bite if handled
Print References
Bonato et al. (2010) A common terminology for the external anatomy of centipedes (Chilopoda). ZooKeys 69: 17–51. (Full text)
Bailey, J. W. (1928). The Chilopoda of New York State, with notes on the Diplopoda (No. 276). University of the State of New York.
Edgecombe, G. D., & Giribet, G. (2007). Evolutionary biology of centipedes (Myriapoda: Chilopoda). Annu. Rev. Entomol., 52, 151-170.
Internet References
Fact sheet by Gordon Ramel