Recently, a visitor of my website sent me a question. Antonius wanted to know what species of insect he had found and send me this picture:
I found it a very interesting question and a pretty good picture too! As you can see, there are quite a few legs on this critter. He has 10 legs on the left side and 9 at the right side. But that is strange, he has more legs at the left side than at the right side! When we look a bit closer we can see that at the rear of this creature there are a couple of stumps, 5 at the left side and 6 at the right side. These are leftovers of where legs used to be. So this critter has a total of 30 legs.
But what type of insect is it? Well, because it has 30 legs it is not an insect. Insects always have 6 legs (another name for the insects is hexapods, which means six legs). So it is not an insect that were looking at. From the number of legs we can conclude that we are looking at a member of the group Myriapoda (which means many legs) and more specific at the group Chilopoda (centipedes). To find out what species exactly we use a key of the centipedes. The museum Naturalis has a great key to the Dutch centipedes which you can find here (unfortunately only in Dutch). By using this key we can find that this is a member of the species: “Scutigera coleoptrata”.
It has the common name: “the house centipede”. It originates from the Mediterranean but can be found in many other places these days. Because it likes humid dark places you are most likely to encounter it in your bathroom. It is a predator which hunts other invertebrates like cockroaches and silverfish. They are able to bite so watch out when you encounter one! Although a bite isn’t dangerous, it is unpleasant and feels like a bee sting. Below you can see a picture of the house centipede when it still has all its legs.And here is some cool footage of a house centipede:
Antonius, thanks for your question!
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Chris Jacobs (Chris Jacobs)
Evolutionary biologist, eco-evo-devo | seek to increase the understanding of science | PostDoc @ Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology.
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