Centipedes are solitary, except for when brooding eggs or young. Contacts between members of the same species are often aggressive (sometimes even cannibalistic) or involve avoidance rituals. One genus of seashore geophilomorph is

A centipede (Scolopendra) eating an individual of the species H. multifasciata. (Photo by Dante Fenolio/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

seen to hunt in packs, with numerous individuals feeding on the same barnacle or amphipod crustacean.

Fertilization is external, involving the transfer of a sperm packet that the female picks up with the back of her body and inserts in her genital atrium. The sexes are distinguished in Scutigeromorpha, Lithobiomorpha, and Geophilomorpha by differences in their gonopods (leg-derived structures at the back of the body). Many species have secondary sexual characteristics in the last pair of legs.

Some rituals are primarily defensive such as scolopendrids displaying the last leg pair outspread. Luminescence in some Geophilomorpha is produced by secretions from the sternal glands, which contain noxious chemicals that deter predators.

Few species are seen aboveground by day, and most are more active at night. Scutigeromorphs are inactive for long periods of time while waiting for prey. Other species show bursts in activity (e.g., captive Scolopendra is active for 1-2 hours on average each eighth night).

Species may inhabit deeper levels of the soil or litter during drier seasons. Some species migrate from litter to logs seasonally; seasonal migration between different forest types may occur over a small spatial scale. Apart from short-term occupation of a burrow, territoriality is unknown.

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