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Canarian Centipede

Updated: Aug 26, 2019

In the pine tree and laurel forests of the Canary Islands lives the animal that holds the title of largest terrestrial arthropod of the archipelago, Scolopendra valida. It is also present in Northern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and the Indomalayan Region.

It attains 15 cm (6 in). It is reddish brown in color with a green hue, and has 21 to 23 pairs of yellow legs. It possesses orange legs that correspond to the last pairs of legs, which is enlarged and used as reargard, and the first pair, modified into pincer-like appendages that inoculate venom to subdue their prey, called forcipules. The unusual sense organs of Tömösváry are located the base of the antennae. Their function is still unknown but might be used for picking up chemical scent trails (olfaction) or sensing vibrations (hearing). Its simple eyes (stemmata, pl.) are incompletely aggregated into compound eyes, and provide it with a primitive eyesight that is only capable of differentiating light from dark.

It’s a burrowing animal that prefers humid environments under logs or rocks. They have a notorious voracity. Its legs trap their victims in a deadly grip, and are quite capable of holding live prey with its hind limbs while it effortlessly strikes, catches and eats a second prey item with its front limbs. It usually hunts small invertebrates and even small reptiles. The venom presents different toxins that affect specific parts of the body, like muscular control, heart rate or respiration. For humans, the bite is painful but harmless. Only in serious cases it can produce light tissue damage.

The fossil record of the group that includes centipedes (Chilopoda) extends back to the Late Silurian, 430 million years ago. Being among the earliest terrestrial animals, centipedes were one of the first ground level predators, and still today, they are one of the most dominant predators of the arthropod world.

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