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Centipedes are arthropods belonging to the class Chilopoda of the subphylum Myriapoda. They are elongated metameric creatures with one pair of legs per body segment. Centipedes are known to be highly venomous and often inject paralyzing venom. Despite the name can have a varying number of legs ranging from 30 to 354. Centipedes always have an odd number of pairs of legs. Therefore no centipede has exactly 100 legs. A key trait uniting this group is a pair of venom claws or forcipules formed from a modified first appendage.
Their size can range from a few millimetres in the smaller lithobiomorphs and geophilomorphs to about 30 cm in the largest scolopendromorphs. Centipedes can be found in a wide variety of environments. They normally have a drab coloration combining shades of brown and red. Cavernicolous and subterranean species may lack pigmentation and many tropical scolopendromorphs have bright aposematic colours.
Worldwide an estimated 8,000 species are thought to exist of which 3,000 have been described. Centipedes have a wide geographical range where they even reach beyond the Arctic Circle. They are found in an array of terrestrial habitats from tropical rainforests to deserts. Within these habitats require a moist microhabitat because they lack the waxy cuticle of insects and arachnids therefore causing them to rapidly lose water. Accordingly they are found in soil and leaf litter under stones and dead wood and inside logs. Centipedes are among the largest terrestrial invertebrate predators and often contribute significantly to the invertebrate predatory biomass in terrestrial ecosystems. Only one species Scolopendra cataracta is known to be amphibious and is believed to hunt aquatic or amphibious invertebrates.
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