Saturday, September 17, 2016

Desert Centipede

We found a large - and very lost - Desert Centipede in our house. It had likely come inside looking for a cool, dark sanctuary (not sure how our workout room fit into that plan...).  We quickly and gently guided it into a Tupperware container, and took advantage of the opportunity to get a few pics.

There are thousands of centipede species worldwide, and they live in varied habitats: from deserts and rainforests, to caves and even above the arctic circle! Our local desert centipede, Scolopendra polymorpha, reaches a length of 4-5 inches. There is a lot of variety in the coloration of this particular species, which explains the polymorpha part of its name. (The smaller centipedes we find in our garden are usually a beautiful shade of pale aqua-green.) Centipedes avoid daytime heat and bright light, normally staying hidden under rocks or bark, in leaf litter or crevices. They are most active at night, hunting for insects, small lizards and rodents that make up their diet.

Although the word "centi-pede" suggests hundred-legs, most centipedes don't actually have that many. Each segment of their body has one pair of legs, except for the first segment which has pair of modified pincers used for gripping their prey and injecting their venom. Although our local centipedes are not poisonous, they can administer a nasty pinch if threatened.

Desert Centipede has a lonely love life. Encounters between centipedes don't usually end well, since they are aggressive and carnivorous.  Male centipedes normally just leave a packet of their genetic material where they hope a female centipede may come across it, and impregnate herself with it. A more daring male may do a little dance  to entice a female to come closer.

When we finished taking pictures of the wayward centipede, we moved it outside and gently placed it on the shady leaf litter beneath our ruellia bush.

It quickly dove down into the leaf litter before I could even get the camera focused for a picture. The last couple segments of the centipede are barely visible in the center if this image, as it happily returned to a more comfortable and appropriate habitat.

"Be sure your put your feet in the right place, then stand firm."
~Abraham Lincoln

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