On Mt. Diablo I found a very large centipede Sunday afternoon. It’s Scolopendra polymorpha, I think, our largest local species. Overall, there are four main orders of centipedes — the long, shoelace-thin Geophilomorpha, or soil centipedes, which can have from 31 to 181 pairs of legs; the Scolopendromorpha, which includes the largest tropical and subtropical species, with 21 or 23 pairs of legs; the short-bodied Lithobiomorpha, or stone centipedes, with 15 pairs of legs; and the long-legged Scutigeromorpha, or house centipedes, also with 15 pairs of legs.

This 9-centimeter Scolopendra has 21 pairs of legs and is one of the largest specimens Kieran and I have ever found in California. Its poison fangs are themselves modified legs from an ancient ancestor. Though this species is certainly predatory, we have also observed a Scolopendra polymorpha in our terrarium eating a banana on Boxing Day 2017, and there are reports of tropical species sometimes eating fruit.

Like other arthropods, the centipede depends on its antennae and spends a lot of time grooming and cleaning them, as can be seen in one video and one picture below. Our praying mantises also chew the entire length of their antennae to clean them.

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Cleaning one antenna by chewing along its entire length.

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