Centipedes, also known as "100-legged worms," are a type of arthropod. Centipedes live in various habitats, including grasslands, wetlands and forests. They spend their time during the day resting in dark and damp areas, coming out at night to hunt for prey. A centipede's color tells a lot about the creature's behavior.
Centipedes are wormlike arthropods with a pair of legs on each body segment. Centipedes can have more than 100 legs or as few as 10, according to an Oklahoma State University website. These arthropods also have a pair of long antennae. Some grow to no more than an inch long, others up to 10 inches. Like millipedes, centipedes have flat bodies and a pair of modified legs, or jaws, on their first segment.
Dark brown, rusty red, reddish-green, white, yellow and bright red are just a few of the colors of centipedes. Some species, such as the soil centipede, are a solid color. Other species have multiple colors, such as the giant red-headed centipede. This species has a rusty red head, yellow legs and a black body. Centipedes either give birth to eggs or live larvae. Eggs are cream or brown. Newly hatched centipedes lack color. Larvae transitioning into adulthood are yellowish to dark brown.
The common colors of centipedes are found in nature: greens, browns, reds and yellows. These colors allow the centipedes to blend in with their environments. Centipedes camouflage themselves in their habitats, hiding from prey and predators under rocks, logs, mulch, leaves and wood piles. Centipedes are carnivores; they eat insect larvae, worms, newborn mice and small amphibians and reptiles. To hunt, centipedes sense prey using their antennae and stun them with their modified front legs.
Like other creatures in the animal kingdom, centipedes displaying bright colors are often letting predators know that they will put up a fight if captured. Predators of centipedes include large insects, birds, mammals like shrews, and other centipedes. Disturbing a centipede, and getting close enough to touch, may elicit a toxic bite from the jaws on the first segment of the centipede's body. Although not life-threatening to humans, a centipede's bite paralyzes a target prey so that the centipede can consume the morsel without a struggle.
- Cornell University: Millipedes and Centipedes
- Missouri Department of Conservation: Soil Centipedes
- Missouri Department of Conservation: Giant Red-Headed Centipede
- Oklahoma State University: Centipedes and Millipedes
- WGBH Educational Foundation: Evolution of Camouflage
- University of Kentucky: Kentucky Centipedes
- Orkin: Centipede Larvae
- University of Michigan: Scutigera coleoptrata
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