Select Page
The Class, Characteristics, Habits, and Traits of Chilopoda

The class, characteristics, habits, and traits of Chilopoda let the people know more about the creatures. The Chilopoda class is composed of five orders, 21 families, and 3,200 known species. Chilopoda belongs to the Myriapoda subphylum which includes even millipedes (class Diplopoda) and two less distinct species, Pauropoda and Symphyla. The head endoskeleton and mandible show indicate that Myriapoda is a natural species, although some zoologists find that millipedes, pauropods, and symphylans are more closely linked to insects than to centipedes.

The living systems of centipedes share rounded heads and other features for life in closed spaces, and the openings of the tracheal breathing system are positioned at either side of the body behind the legs. These characteristics suggest that Lithobiomorpha (1,500 species), Craterostigmomophora (one or two species), Scolopendromorpha (550 species), and Geophilomorpha (1,100 species) than is associated with the order Scutigeromorpha (80 species).           

The latter category, also known as Notostigmophora, has a domed head, wide diverse eyes, and the tracheae’s openings are situated at the top of the body at the base of each tergal plate. Scutigeromorphs include a unique pulmonary trachea. It is only in the orders Scolopendromorpha and Geophilomorpha that little ones come out of the eggs with their maximum adult number of sections. The epimorphic growths, the distinctive shape of the testes, and the tracheae have connections between the segments all suggest that these two orders are closest to each other.

How Can a Chilopoda be Described?


The name centipede means ‘one hundred feet’, their legs stretch noticeably from the body, dragging the final pairs of legs behind it. This helps them to move very quickly, either chasing food or escaping from the enemies. Centipedes have one pair of legs per section of the body and it is an important difference from millipedes. The body of the centipede is long and straight, with a large pair of antennae pointing down from the eyes.  The front legs act as fangs used to transform venom and immobilize the prey.

Physical Characteristics of Chilopoda

The adult length of one centipede varies from 0.15 to 11.8 in (4–300 mm). The head has a pair of long and lean antennae, consisting of 14 to over 100 items.   The eyes are either faceted (Scutigeromorpha) or consist of one ocellus or a group of ocelli on each side of the head (most Lithobiomorpha and all the broad Scolopendromorpha) or entirely absent of eyes (all Geophilomorpha, much smaller Scolopendromorpha). The mouthpieces contain a pair of mandibles and two pairs of maxillae. The first trunk legs are altered as mouthpieces (maxillipeds) which become a necessary aspect of the head.

The maxillipeds have a poisonous gland, releasing the venom into an opening at the end of the fang. The trunk has 15–191 pairs of legs, with one pair per section, the last pair of which is usually the only one that is constantly improved: the last pair of legs has a sensory, grasping, or protective feature. The legs are made of six major parts, namely coxa, trochanter, prefemur, femur, tibia, and one- or two-part tarsus, and a terminal claw. Respiration occurs through tracheae, which typically are thinly divided. For both sexes, the genital opening is at the bottom of the trunk.

Like in most arthropods, the heart is dorsal and rectangular, expands through the head as the aorta. The ventral nerve cord has associated with ganglia in all the parts of the legs. Like in insects, the brain becomes tripartite. The gut is split down into an esophagus, midgut, and hindgut. The chief excretory organs are a set of Malpighian tubules located at the intersection of the midgut and hindgut. The extended ovary or testes goes through a wide portion of the neck. Paired accessory glands arise in both sexes at the genital atrium, at the back of the body.

The parts at the bottom of all centipedes are of similar length around the trunk. The tergal plates vary between long and short around the trunk in all orders except for Geophilomorpha. The tracheae expand to spirals that are restricted to long tergite segments but exist in all trunk parts, except the last one in Geophilomorpha. The number of sets of legs in centipedes exceeds an unusual amount.

They are highly variable in color. The majority of centipedes is dull, with the yellow or brown tergal plates (most Geophilomorpha and Lithobiomorpha) and head. Wide Scolopendromorpha is sometimes brilliantly colored, sometimes with a dark band over each tergal plate; in this order, the head and legs might be a different color than the tergites of the trunk.

Distribution of Chilopoda

Distribution of Chilopoda

Chilopoda occurs all over the world except Antarctica. As a result of commerce and plant introductions, some species have become more common, transported in the soil, or with plants. With the introduction of specific animals and snakes, some species have gone away from the islands.

Habitat of Chilopoda

Habitat of Chilopoda

Centipedes are widespread in humid forests and trees but many species live in dry forests and some live in farmlands or deserts. Several Geophilomorpha hunts the colonies of seaweed in the coastal area.   Some species live in caves; particularly for a single species, Centipedes withstand a height range from sea level to high mountain tops.

Few organisms have very unique microhabitats but most grow within a variety of microhabitats, such as leaves, trees, trash, or under stones.

Behavior of Chilopoda

Behavior of Chilopoda

Centipedes are lonely, except when they lay eggs or young ones are hatched. Contacts between members of the same species are often forceful (sometimes cannibalistic even) or engage avoidance. One species of seashore geophilomorphous is seen hunting in packs, with multiple individuals feeding on the same barnacle or amphipod crustacean.

Reproduction is external, requiring the delivery of a sperm packet picked up by the female with her body’s back and injected into her genital atrium. The sexes are differentiated in Scutigeromorpha, Lithobiomorpha, and Geophilomorpha by variations in their gonopods (leg-derived structures at the back of the body). Several species have secondary reproductive organs in the last pair of legs.

Some practices are mainly defensive, such as scolopendrids displaying the last pair of legs expanded. In certain Geophilomorpha, luminescence is produced by secretions of the sternal glands containing poisonous chemicals that discourage natural enemies.

There are few species seen above ground by day, and the majority is more active at night. Waiting for prey, scutigeromorphs become passive for long periods of time. Many species exhibit behavior bursts (e.g., captive Scolopendra is active on average for 1–2 hours per eighth night).

During the warmer seasons, organisms can occupy deeper levels of the soil or litter. Many species move seasonally from litter to logs; seasonal migration between various types of forests may happen on a small landscape level. Besides a nest being used for a brief period, territorial status is unclear.

Feeding Ecology and Diet of Chilopoda

They normally eat arthropods with a soft body. Other centipedes, or worms, are often taken alive. Large Scolopendridae may be prey for mice, toads, birds, lizards, geckos, and small snakes. Some geophilomorphs hold plants as food if the animal prey has been rejected long enough.

The antennas also sense preys, which are coated with thick mechanosensory and chemosensory hairs. The eyes do not appear to play a major role in identifying prey. The last pair of legs is also used in some species for tracking or getting the prey and is adapted as pincers.

A prey is paralyzed from the maxillipede fang by a poison administered. The prey is held by the maxillipeds and sometimes also by the anterior walking legs, passed by the first and second maxillae to the mouth, and then break by the mandibles, a row of teeth in all centipedes, except Geophilomorpha.e Geophilomorphic mandibles pick the food and grind it. The salivary glands create fluids and break the prey down.

The Reproductive System of Chilopoda

The Reproductive System of Chilopoda

Most species have distinct sexes, but some are female clones across parts of their geographic range. Males have practices of intimacy to attract the female to pick up a spermatophore which is stored on a web created by the male, in all centipedes excluding Scutigeromorpha. A male begins it, hitting his antennae at the back legs of the female; this practice of tapping will continue for several hours. With the back end of her body, the female contacts the web so that the spermatophore lies against her genital opening or she gathers up the sperm with her gonopods and positions it in her genital atrium.

The Best Pest Control Products for a Pest-Free Home

The Scutigeromorpha and Lithobiomorpha lay single eggs. Craterostimomorpha, Scolopendromorpha, and Geophilomorpha lay a collection of 3–86 eggs, sometimes in a hole of rotten wood, covered by the female. Mothers keep their bodies around the eggs and stop to eat as they breed. The maintenance of the eggs is primarily to remove the fungi. Eggs are hidden in soil and then left in the Scutigeromorpha and Lithobiomorpha areas.

In Scutigeromorpha, the little ones have four pairs of legs and six or seven pairs of legs in Lithobiomorpha; they are stable in certain orders from birth, and shifts between specific stages are slow. The young ones of Scolopendromorpha and Geophilomorpha have the number of legs similar to an adult. The young ones at their first post-embryonic stages are unable to hunt, and are fed by their mothers. The breeding seasons will differ from one species to another.

The Life Cycle of Chilopoda

Centipedes will survive up to six years. Centipede breeding normally occurs year-round in natural habitats. In seasonal conditions, centipedes overwinter as adults and then reappear in spring from their protected hiding places.

With three life cycles, Centipedes experience an unfinished transformation. In most of the centipede species, females lay their eggs in soil or other wet plant material. The larvae grow and go through a sequence of gradual stages before they are fully mature. In several species, young ones have fewer legs than their parents. They gain more pairs of legs at each stage.

Defense Technique of Chilopoda

Defense Technique of Chilopoda

Centipedes use a variety of different techniques to protect themselves when attacked. Huge, regional centipedes don’t hesitate to attack and can cause a painful bite. Stone centipedes use their large back legs to knock their attackers with a sticky material. The centipedes living in the soil generally don’t try to fight back. Instead, to cover themselves, they fold themselves into a shell. House centipedes want to escape than to fight and easily crawl out of danger.

Significance to Humans

Centipedes do have a few human applications. In the pet industry, wide Scolopendridae are included. Almost all species are harmless to food crops and human goods (but geophilomorphic species is believed to feed on root crops). They don’t play any role in causing disease or in transmitting it.

Some centipedes are poisonous, but most small ones are unable to pierce human skin, or their bites are no worse than a stinging of bees. Bites by big Scolopendridae are severe, but after a few hours, pain and swelling move away. Very few deaths from centipede bites have occurred in humans.

Related Questions

1. What are some differences between Diplopoda and Chilopoda?

Both classes are land-based animals, with a structured body and attachments. Chilopoda includes one pair of legs per segment of the body while Diplopoda contains two pairs of legs per section. The chief difference between Chilopoda and Diplopoda is the number of legs in each section of the body.

2. How many body segments does Chilopoda have?

Chilopoda or Centipedes are uniramian arthropods whose bodies consist of a chain of several (up to 177) slender sectors, each with the exception of the one behind the head and the last two bearing a single pair of legs.

3. How many antennas does Chilopoda have?

Geophilomorpha has 31-181 sets of legs at all levels and typically 14-sectioned antennas (but Tomosvary organs and eyes are lacking). Such worm-like centipedes are the only ones who survive under the specific name hundred-leggers of the class.

4. Does Chilopoda have wings?

Such creatures have two parts of the body, eight legs and they have no wings or antennas.   The Chilopoda contains the centipede with worm-like segmented heads, a pair of legs for each section of the body, and a pair of antennae or nothing.

5. What type of invertebrate is a Chilopoda?

Centipede belongs to Chilopoda class is lengthy, thin, multi-sectioned predatory arthropods. Every section carries one pair of legs except the hind most one. Centipedes typically live under the stones, leaves, and litter on the field. They look for other little insects and animals at night and catch them.

Learn More About Poison Chilopoda