A human centipede is possible

Care-Sheet Centipede - Scolopender

This care sheet is intended for the first and general orientation about these animals and is by no means to be used as the sole information for all species.
Systematics: The class of centipedes (Chilopoda), which one belongs to the trunk of the arthropod (Arthropoda) counts, is in the superclass of the Myriapoda (Millipede) listed. In the class ofChilopodaa distinction is made again between five orders: Erdläufer (Geophilomorpha), Spider runner (Scutigeromorpha), Stone runner (Lithobiomorpha), Crateostigmomorpha (of which only one species is currently known) as well as the order of the giant runners or skolopenders described here (Scolopendromorpha). The three families are currently in this orderScolopendridaeScolopocryptopidae asCryptopidaewith a total of more than 550 species listed. However, the system is theChilopoda not yet clearly and conclusively clarified, so that changes can certainly be expected here in the future.
Distribution: Centipede (Chilopoda) have populated all continents - except for Antarctica. They have opened up diverse habitats on the various continents. The giant runners described here (Scolopendromorpha) are characterized by a distribution in the warmer, humid and warm climates, whereby drought does not harm them, which can be seen in some desert or steppe-dwelling species.
Life expectancy: The life expectancy of scolopenders depends on the type and can be several years. Copies ofSkolopendra gigantea were over 10 years old, a copy ofScolopendra morsitans had a life expectancy of 5-6 years.
Characteristic appearance: Adult scolopers usually have 21, but sometimes also 23 body segments, with a pair of legs assigned to each body segment. The legs are very strong and relatively long compared to the body diameter. These two characteristics also make them easy to identify withDiplopoda differ, which have two relatively short pairs of legs for each fused body segment. The long legs enable the scolopenders to move quickly on their forays for prey. The last pair of legs (tow legs) can look different from species to species due to modifications and is not used for locomotion but is designed as a tactile or gripping organ depending on the species. The head has a pair of antennas, and simple eyes can also be seen (4 point eyes per head side). The mouthparts are very strong and equipped with poison glands with which the animals can inflict painful wounds. The colors of the animals show a wide range, which makes the animals sometimes very attractive. In addition to colors in earth tones such as brown and green, the animals can also be blue, purple or bright red, with bright colors usually being a warning color.
Height: The size of the different types of scolopender varies greatly. Most species reach a height in the range of 8-15 cm. But there are also species that grow significantly larger, such asScolopendra giganteawho can be up to 25 cm tall.
Activity phase: Skolopenders are nocturnal and hide under leaves, stones, wood or bits of bark during the day.
Food: Scolopenders are predatory and feed on animal food, although carrion is not spurned either. When choosing food, the size of the food animal should be adapted to the size of the scolopender, because if the food animals are too big, there is a risk of injury to the scolopender. On the other hand, if the food animals are too small, they are often not viewed as food by the scolopender. The most diverse insects from the specialist trade come into consideration as food animals, which are also available there in different sizes and thus can be adapted to the size of the scolopender: house crickets, grasshoppers, cockroaches, larvae of mealworms and black beetles. Vertebrates are also not spurned by the scolopenders - frost mice of suitable sizes are ideal here. Some sources also state that scolopenders also like to eat bits of meat and dog food. Adult scolopenders are fed once or twice a week, young animals in the growth phase can also be fed more frequently. However, overfeeding should be avoided. When feeding, however, it is important to ensure that uneaten food animals are removed from the terrarium after one day, as well as leftover food. The animals should not be fed if the animals are shedding their skin (as well as the period shortly before and after) or if the females have laid a clutch. In these phases, feeding represents a burden for the animals, as a result of which the molting can be incompletely completed or the not yet fully hardened exoskeleton is still soft and vulnerable. On the other hand, females after weaning the clutch can be disturbed by introduced food animals to such an extent that they give up the clutch. In both cases described, the animals should only be fed again when they are actively looking for food by roaming around in the terrarium.
Reproduction and rearing:Mating the Skolopender is not that easy for several reasons. These animals are usually solitary animals and they do not shy away from viewing conspecifics as food. Since these animals also have no external sexual characteristics (only a few species have secondary sexual characteristics that can be used to distinguish between males and females), it is not easy to bring pairs together and there is always a risk that the mating will succeed. If a pair has been put together, the prepared pairing terrarium should be large enough so that the animals can retreat. Some sources give here four times the body length of the animals in the length as well as in the width of the mating terrarium. The male will usually hide a so-called sperm network in which it deposits its spermathec, which can then be ingested by the female. Since the female can store the sperm for a long period of time, the females do not necessarily lay eggs immediately. This seems to depend on different climatic conditions from the areas of origin of the animals, so that one can try to induce the laying of eggs by varying the temperature and humidity within the terrarium. If the external conditions are correct, the female will withdraw into a protected cave to lay the eggs and lay the eggs there. The number of eggs depends on the species and can be up to 100 eggs / animal. The females maintain brood care until the young animals hatch, which is why the animals should not be disturbed by fiddling in the terrarium or bringing in food animals during this time. After the hatchling of the young, the mother can be left with the young for a few days before it is also removed from the terrarium and transferred to its traditional terrarium. The young animals go through an anamorphic development. This means that when they hatch they only have a few segments which are gradually completed up to the full number of segments. The young animals can then be left in the terrarium for a while before they are isolated on the rearing containers (cricket boxes, BraPlast boxes or small terrariums). The rearing tanks must, however, close tightly and should - if not available - be provided with small ventilation openings which, however, do not allow the young animals to escape. The rearing containers should contain a sufficient layer of substrate and hiding places. In addition, it must be ensured that the rearing tanks are not completely moistened, but that the young animals are also offered dry areas so that they can choose their preferred microclimate themselves. The introduction of small pieces of cork, dry leaves and (living) moss complete the facility and help to keep the microclimate in the small rearing boxes stable.
Terrarium and keeping conditions: The terrarium size also depends on the final size of the scolopender held in it. As a rule of thumb, the terrarium length should be twice the body length of the scolopender held in it, whereas 1.5 times the body length of the animal should be sufficient for the width. The terrarium height seems to be of minor importance. Since the animals also like to bury themselves in the ground, it should also be possible to introduce a sufficiently high layer of soil (10-15 cm). Since skolopenders are very fast and agile hunters who can also escape quickly from the (open) terrarium, a terrarium that is well secured against breakouts is essential for keeping these animals. For this reason, the classic terrariums with sliding doors are forbidden, as the animals can either crawl through the gap between the two doors or slide open the sliding doors and thus escape unnoticed. Trap-door terrariums, which are popular for keeping spiders, are also largely unsuitable for keeping scolopes. On the one hand, the required height of the ground cannot usually be brought in here and, on the other hand, the nimble hunters can quickly escape from the terrarium with the window open. For this reason, we recommend either safe terrariums for keeping skolopenders, which have a sliding pane in the lid, or large plastic boxes which have a tightly closing lid with protective flaps to prevent unintentional opening. If you decide in favor of the plastic boxes, these still have to be provided with ventilation holes, which, however, have to be designed in such a way that the animals cannot break out or enlarge them by biting open. Here you can, for example, cut out a piece of the box and weld wire gauze over the opening with a soldering iron (this work can only be carried out outdoors or with sufficient ventilation). The ideal height of the terrarium turns out to be a height that can easily be calculated as follows: Height of the bottom layer (in cm) + expected length of the fully grown scolopender (in cm) + 5-10 cm safety distance to the lid = terrarium height. Since the animals are predominantly nocturnal, the lighting of the pool only plays a subordinate role. In the case of glass terrariums, you can also attach fluorescent tubes over the terrariums, which can also serve as an additional heat source. The temperatures should correspond to those of the areas of origin of the animals and be in the range of 23-30 ° C during the day, which can drop to 17-20 ° C at night. We strongly advise against using heating mats, which are placed under the terrariums as a heat source, as they are not conducive to the natural behavior of the animals, which dig into the ground when the temperature is too high. If you still want to use heating mats as a heat source, you can attach them to one side of the wall so that they heat the back, for example. In this case, however, the area of ​​the ground should be left out and the area of ​​the heating mat should be at most half as large as the area of ​​the terrarium back wall. Animals from temperate zones should be given the opportunity to hibernate at temperatures in the range of 10 ° C. The humidity in the terrarium should be based on the origin of the animals and be in the range of 60-70% for animals from steppes and deserts and around 90% for rainforest dwellers. In order to design the terrarium in a species-appropriate manner, a sufficient layer of substrate should be introduced, which allows the animals to dig dimensionally stable caves that do not collapse immediately. For rainforest dwellers, a mixture of unfertilized flower or terrarium soil is suitable, which can be mixed with peat chips, dry moss, humus or a little sand. For steppe or desert dwellers, a higher proportion of sand is used, which can be stretched with a little terrarium soil and clay powder so that the moisture can be kept well here and the caves do not collapse immediately after the sand has dried. But desert dwellers should always have a moist corner in the terrarium available, where they can meet their moisture and liquid needs. There are a number of possibilities to offer the animals the necessary hiding places: stones or larger pieces of wood such as branches or roots can be introduced into the terrarium as basic elements, over which the animals can also climb. However, these furnishings should be secured against being buried under and falling over, as otherwise they could either damage the terrarium or injure the burrowing animal. Lighter materials such as pieces of wood and bark, small branches or cork tubes, leaves, moss or dry grass can now be applied to the bottom layer, which give the pool a rich structure. This offers the animals a species-appropriate environment in which they can on the one hand withdraw and on the other hand go hunting for food insects, which they have to seek out and find due to the rich structure, which corresponds to the natural behavior of these animals. It is also advisable to cover the substrate in the terrarium with small springtails (Collembola) or white isopods, as these also ensure a balanced microclimate by removing small leftover food residues, excrement and rotting plant materials and prevent rot and mold formation. A planting of the terrarium is not absolutely necessary, even if it increases the visual value of a terrarium significantly. If you want to bring living plants into the scolopender terrarium, the plants should correspond to the area of ​​origin and the climatic zone of the animal. In addition, the plants should be extremely robust, as the animals do not treat the introduced vegetation with care when climbing and digging. Furthermore, it is necessary to rinse the plants thoroughly with cold water before placing them in the tank in order to remove any pesticides from the trade. A planting in the terrarium has a positive effect on the microclimate and thus fulfills a useful task in addition to the aesthetic function.
Toxicity: All chilopods have a more or less effective poison. It is not possible to make a general statement about the toxicity of an animal, since the toxicity depends not only on the type of animal but also on its size. More poisonous species are more likely to be found on the Asian continent and representatives from the four generaCryptopsOtostigmusScolopendra andScolopocryptos can be counted among the more poisonous representatives. The poison has a very efficient effect on invertebrates and small mammals and can kill them quickly. The effects of the poison on humans have not been clearly clarified from a medical point of view. Scolopender bites usually lead to pain in the area of ​​the bite, which can sometimes be very strong and long-lasting (up to several days). Medical symptoms include reddening of the bite site, swelling of the tissue and numbness in the area of ​​the bite. But there are also reports that the bites go almost unnoticed, so that the assumption is reasonable that the animals can actively regulate the release of their amount of poison. However, no more detailed studies are available for this. Human deaths from a scolopender bite have been the exception so far. It is assumed here that the cause of death was more likely to be caused by a secondary infection. As a keeper of these animals you should ALWAYS be aware of the toxicity of these animals and take this into account when handling the animals. Handling with bare hands is not advisable; you should either grab the animals with large tweezers, the ends of which can be wrapped with a little foam to protect the animals, and move them or drive the animals into a transport container. The wearing of gloves is recommended for both methods of handling.
Authors: Dr. rer. nat. Martin Singheiser, Martin Cave
Further reading recommendations:
Engelmann, Wolf-Eberhardt & Lange, Jürgen: Invertebrates - zoo animal husbandry in human care, Verlag Harri Deutsch
Kornmüller, Christian: Centipedes: way of life - keeping - offspring. Nature and Animal Publishing House
Westheide, Wilfried & Rieger, Gunde: Special zoology. Part 1: Protozoa and invertebrates, Springer Spektrum Verlag, 3rd edition, ISBN 978-3-642-34695-8
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