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

Class Chilopoda - Centipedes

Centipede? - Strigamia bothriopus Centipede - Scolopocryptops Centipede Giant Redheaded Centipede? - Scolopendra heros Seattle Centipede Lithobius peregrinus Strigamia bothriopus? Scolopendra
Classification
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Myriapoda (Myriapods)
Class Chilopoda (Centipedes)
Other Common Names
Rainworms, Hundred-leggers
Numbers
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
Size
10-270+ mm worldwide; in our area, Scolopendra heros is the largest species, reaching ~150 mm
Identification
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)
Range
Worldwide; some range beyond the Arctic Circle(1)
Habitat
wide variety of habitats; abundant in deserts(1)
Food
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)
Remarks
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)
(4)
Internet References
Fact sheet by Gordon Ramel