How Many Legs Are on a Centipede?
Just how many legs does a centipede have? The short answer is that a centipede can have from 15 to 191 pairs of legs, meaning they can have from 30 up to 382 legs. However, the 382 legs is the most extreme example.
This is both a lot of legs and an extreme level of variation between different centipedes.
We’ll soon see that answering the question of, how many legs are on a centipede is just the tip of the iceberg. To really understand the answer we also need to delve into the larger biology and ecology of the centipede. In short, we need to understand why centipedes have so many legs.
Why Do Centipedes Have So Many Legs?
Now that we know how many legs a centipede has, we can look at the reasons behind it. Why do centipedes have so many legs? This is in large part due to the fact that centipedes are part of a group called myriapoda. This group of arthropods includes both centipedes and millipedes.
We usually see a high level of repetition in the body parts of myriapoda. Because of this a centipede body is essentially made up of repeating segment. Each segment is usually the same as the one before it. Most of these segments will have a single pair of legs. Interestingly enough even the exceptions highlight the larger rule of repetition.
The front segment, for example has venomous weapons. But even these parts, called forcipules, are actually modified legs. The largest true exceptions to the rules are the centipedes head on the first segment and its rounded final segment.
Do Centipedes Have 100 legs?
The answer is no, as centipedes have an odd number of pair of legs, so they can’t have 100 legs. But they might have 98 or 102 individual legs, or 49 or 51 pair of legs, depending on the species.
How Long Can a Centipede Get?
Of course there’s more to a centipede’s size than the number of his legs. We should also consider just how long a centipede can grow. Most centipedes are only about four inches long. (Over 10 centimeters.) However, the largest species of centipede are huge enough to even hunt small birds and mice. These gigantic centipedes can grow as long as a full foot. (Over 30 centimeters.)
Thankfully the largest species of centipedes are fairly rare. Their smaller cousins do still hunt though. It’s just that the average centipede has his sight set on much smaller prey. A centipede might happily attack almost anything smaller than it is. But the average centipede will focus most of his attention on grubs, worms and other insects. The centipedes many legs give it a strong advantage in even the most uncertain terrain. This means that most insects and worms are easy prey for the average centipede.
Do Centipedes Bite?
Yes, a centipede can bite and it can be very painful.
Their preference for smaller prey means that they are active hunters at night. Centipedes can venture into houses, garages and the occasional sleeping bag when camping. Ouch.
Centipedes can bite if they feel threatened. This involves using their modified front legs to inject poison into our skin. Depending on the species and size, the bite can be painful to extremely painful. The swelling from the bite can last for several days
The hairy type of centipedes or feather looking type of centipedes can also inflict a painful bite.
How Many Babies Do Centipedes Have?
Even a very young centipede will often try to hunt down worms and insects. And there are indeed quite a few young centipedes to be found within their natural habitats.
Female centipedes will typically lay about 35 eggs at some point during the summer months. Of course the number of centipedes which will actually be born from the eggs has a lot to do with random chance.
Environmental factors or predation can decrease the number of eggs which can hatch. Fungi is a particularly large threat to centipede eggs. However, the threat of predation is surprisingly low. This is due to the fact that centipede mothers typically guard their eggs until they hatch. The end effect is that a larger number of these eggs will hatch than we might otherwise suspect.
How Long Do Centipedes Live?
Once a centipede is born it will take some time for it to grow to adulthood. It will usually take a centipede about one to three years to grow into full reproductive maturity. What’s more, the longest lived species can keep going for as long as ten years.
However, it’s far more likely for any given species of centipede to only live about one and a half to six years.
What Are Some Fun Facts About Centipedes?
Of course there’s a lot more to learn about centipedes. For example, consider their cousin species the millipede. The two species are quite similar in a lot of ways. But the centipede is a carnivore while the millipede is an herbivore. The centipede only eats meat while his cousin the millipede will eat almost anything except meat.
We should also note that the centipede’s legs are remarkable for more than their sheer quantity. When we ask how many legs are on a centipede there’s little need to concern ourselves with limbs lost to injuries. This is because the centipede also has an amazing ability to regenerate legs during a molt. The legs are so disposable that centipedes typically sacrifice their legs in order to escape from predators.
Finally, don’t expect centipedes to go extinct any time soon. The species has endured for a remarkable amount of time. In fact, the oldest known evidence of centipedes data going back 400 million years.