BioKIDS home

Kids' Inquiry of Diverse Species


What do they look like?

Centipedes have long, segmented bodies, covered in a tough, flexible exoskeleton. Each segment has one pair of legs, and there is a pair of antennae on their heads. At the head, one pair of legs is modified to work as fangs that bite and deliver venom. Often the last pair of legs are used like antennae too, used for sensing instead of walking. Most centipedes are flat, with short legs, but there are few that have rounded bodies and very long legs.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike

Where do they live?

There are thousands of species of centipedes all around the world.

What kind of habitat do they need?

Most centipedes need to live in moist places, but a few can survive in deserts and dry grasslands.

How do they grow?

Baby centipedes hatch out of their eggs looking like small versions of grown-up centipedes. As they grow they shed their exoskeleton to make room.

How long do they live?

Most centipedes probably only live for a year or two at most, but some may live for several years

  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    1.0 to 3.0 years

How do they behave?

Most centipedes are not social, they almost always found alone. A few are found in groups.

How do they communicate with each other?

Centipedes have pretty simple eyes, they probably communicate mostly through touch and smell. They can feel vibrations.

What do they eat?

Centipedes are active hunters. They roam around looking for small animals to bite and eat. They eat insects, spiders, and other small invertebrates. If the centipede is large enough it will even attack small vertebrates like lizards.

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats terrestrial vertebrates
    • eats non-insect arthropods

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Centipedes mainly avoid predators by hiding under bark, rocks, or in dead leaves, or burrowing in soil. Many species can run fast. They will also bite to protect themselves.

Are they endangered?

No centipede species are known to be endangered.

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated

Some more information...

There are 26 species of centipedes known to occur in Michigan, but there could be more, many species of centipedes are still unknown to science


George Hammond (author), Animal Diversity Web.



Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map


living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map


living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends.


an animal that mainly eats meat


mid-altitude coastal areas with mild, rainy winters and long, dry summers. Dominant plant types are dense, evergreen shrubs.

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


union of egg and spermatozoan


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Climbing plants are also abundant. There is plenty of moisture and rain, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


this biome is characterized by large expanses of coniferous forest, there is an extended cold season and heavy snowfall.


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year

University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

BioKIDS home  |  Questions?  |  Animal Diversity Web  |  Cybertracker Tools

Hammond, G. . "Chilopoda" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 18, 2014 at

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
Copyright © 2002-2014, The Regents of the University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

University of Michigan