Friday, June 4, 2010

Scutigera coleoptrata

Quite a while back when I was dealing with the natural history of arthropods you can find in your house I was asked to treat the housipede or house centipede. Finally, here it is. I don’t have a shot of this creature because I don’t see them to0 much and when I do it’s only for a second. They, like silverfish, move creepily quickly. But for those who aren’t familiar or haven’t heard the term housipede before you can check out the shots on the encyclopedia of life: http://www.eol.org/pages/1033083

House centipede is a term used to describe levels of taxonomic specificity all the way down to the species Scutigera coleoptrata and all the way up to the family Scutigeromorpha. To imagine that there’s an entire tribe of these creepy beasts running (yeah, running) around in our basements is slightly unsettling. This all started with my encounter with a spider and me singing the praises of finding wildlife indoors but the housipede is another flat, many-legged crawling critter I’d prefer stay outside.

The housidpede is indeed a member of the arthropod group of centipedes. Its first pair of legs has been modified into fangs for dealing with its prey. This is typical of centipedes. All (all) centipedes bite. It’s just a matter of how painful a bite they can deliver that classifies them as harmful to humans or not. (A quick tangent: I really like to make this clarification with jellies. All jellies sting but certain kinds, like the moon jellies that are common in Massachusetts, simply cannot sting through our skin. But the strategy of stinging with specialized mechanical cells is common to all jellies, and I believe all Cnidarians.)

Housipedes (or the specific species S. coleoptrata) are thought to be native to the Mediterranean but can now be found in many places worldwide. They, like the silverfish and thrips, thrive in humid environments which is one reason they tend to show up in our basements and (much more unfortunate for us) our bathrooms. However the housipedes are apparently predating on silverfish. So there’s a great reason to like them. Any enemy of a silverfish is a friend of mine. (Wow, I just worked two of my pet peeves into one sentence: the demonization of an animal and the description of a prey item as an “enemy.” Now I’m starting so see how emotions run so hot when nature comes indoors.)

1 comment:

  1. yeah - I think I would prefer to encounter almost any spider or other insect indoors over one of these guys (except a giant wasp I guess). Ah... they sometimes ended up in the tanks at the zebrafish lab and you would take them out thinking they were dead and they would be totally alive. scary. That close-up head shot on EOL is awesome.

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