Many times we have heard of centipedes but in reality their real name is chilopod . They belong to the great kingdom animalia , to the phylum of the arthropods , specifically to the subphylum of the myriapods . To this large group of centipedes, the species of the scolopendra belongs , which is distinguished from other species by being larger and by producing an extremely painful sting , and in general, they are a cause of fear among the population.

  • Kingdom: Animal
  • Phylum: Arthropods
  • Subphylum: Myriapods

What is scolopendra?

The scolopendra or centipede as it is better known is a hunting insect that has 23 pairs of legs, and that have the ability to produce a painful and strong sting that is usually poisonous but not fatal.

  • Definition
  • Characteristics of the scolopendra
  • Habitat
  • Feeding
  • Reproduction of the scolopendra
  • Breathing
  • Bite
  • Importance
  • Examples of species
  • Why is it called scolopendra


The scolopendra or centipede is a familiar insect of the myriapods that inhabits practically all places on the planet, mainly usually seen at night because it does not like daylight. It has 21 or 23 pairs of legs that differentiate it from other animals of its species, as well as having a pair of fangs or calipers to defend itself and inject poison into its prey.


Characteristics of the scolopendra

Among the most representative characteristics of scolopendras we have the following:

  • They have 21 to 23 pairs of lateral legs on the trunk.
  • They have their bodies divided into head and trunk . The head is made up of a pair of antennae, jaws, and ocelli. The trunk is made up of segments.
  • They have poisonous glands .
  • They have antennas that function as their sensory organ and each of them has between 17 and 34 gears.
  • They can reach 15 centimeters but there is the giant Amazon scolopendra that measures 30 centimeters in length.
  • Your digestive system is made up of the foregut , midgut, and hindgut .
  • They also have a crop , which is responsible for storing and regulating the food that is destined to reach the midgut.
  • Its nervous system is ganglionic and very primitive, they are ganglia that run longitudinally through the body of the animal.
  • Your brain has three distinct parts, the proctocerebro , deutocerebro and tritocerebro .
  • Its circulatory system is open and consists of a heart in the trunk and a cephalic aorta.


The habitat of this type of animal is mainly humid places and it also has very little light, because it is not to their liking. However, their habitat is highly variable and they can be located in deserts , humid forests , savannas , fields , forests and even in urban environments where there is not so much darkness, they can develop their habitats. It is common to find them in parks, gardens and in populated areas , in accumulations of leaves, dry and wet trunks that have fallen, and with the population expanding every day, it is also common to find them in homes.

It is common to find them within the fauna of Costa Rica and in this country there are around 21 species that inhabit wooded areas. In Venezuela it is also common to find them although they are classified as an endangered species. They generally prefer temperatures between 24 ° and 32 ° C.


The scolopendra can feed on any organism they can handle, and they usually attack all kinds of insects that they can detect through vibrations . Their main food is insects such as cockroaches , spiders, snails and but in their diet they also include small vertebrates that are within their reach. Some specimens of scolopendras can even feed on larger animals such as adult mice . They have a very good appetite but when they are satisfied they usually go days without hunting. To feed, they generally pounce on their prey, immobilize itfirst and then they inject their venom into it and then devour it.

Reproduction of the scolopendra

The male so generally is larger than the female and is in charge of wooing the female through a series of rhythmic movements. Then, it deposits a spermatophore that will then be collected by the female who, after four weeks, lays an average of between ten and fifty eggs . A curious fact is that the female will remain with her eggs until they hatch . The young take a month to come out.


These types of animals cannot breathe through their skin as other animals very similar to them do. They then have a type of tracheal respiration like the rest of the arthropods . It has respiratory stigmas that are in charge of communicating the exterior with the respiratory system so that they can exercise this function, these stigmas are tubes that run through the entire body of the animal.


Scolopendras have a first segment on their trunk, a pair of poisonous fangs called calipers , which are actually modified legs associated with a poisonous gland . Its sting is quite painful and has a venom that is made up of a number of histamine , protein, and acetylcholine toxins . It can be said that scolopendras are poisonous but for humans they are not so harmful because to date, no case of bite by this insect has been fatal.

Their bite is painful and can cause edema and swelling in the area of ​​the bite. On some occasions, its venom can cause necrosis in the affected area. In case of a bite, it is advisable to wash the skin immediately, apply cold compresses , administer antihistamines if necessary. In some very extreme cases , muscle spasms may occur , so intravenous calcium gluconate is the best option, analgesic treatments and transfer to the hospital .


Scolopendra is a type of arthropod that has been used in recent years in Western medicine and the use of some of its chemical compounds has begun to be valued . Centipede in particular proved useful for treating chronic pain in much the same way as morphine without neglecting its adverse side effects. The use of the venom of this animal is suggested in scientific studies that find in the animal a small protein or a peptide that has the ability to alter the function of nerve channels .

Examples of species

Some examples of the species scolopendra are the following:

  • Escolopendra Cingulata
  • The giant centipede (Escolopendra gigantea)
  • Scolopendra morsitans
  • Scutigera coleoptrata

Why is it called scolopendra

The etymology of the word scolopendra or scolopendromorpha comes from the word in the Latin language skolopendra and from the word in the Greek language σκολόπενδρα which has the meaning ” centipede “ or ” has many feet “ and the word morphe , which means ” shape ” . For this reason, the meaning of the word escolopendra refers to ” centipede-shaped animal . 

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