Photo credit: George Chernilevsky
The longest centipede is Archispirostreptus gigas, also known as the “Giant Centipede”. Its length is between 25 and 38 centimeters. It is native to the forest regions of West Africa, and is found notably in Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana and Ivory Coast. Its natural habitat consists mainly of tropical rainforests, where the warm and humid climate provides the ideal conditions for its survival. This centipede is often found under rotting tree trunks, dead leaves, or plant debris. It prefers dark, humid environments to avoid desiccation, as its exoskeleton does not retain water well.
But considering the number of legs, what is the largest centipede?
Archispirostreptus gigas has 600 legs. But in 1928, in a Californian valley, Illacme plenipes was discovered. If the latter does not measure more than 3 cm, it has more than twice as many legs: 750 legs (in the female, longer than the male).
Despite everything, the general public remained upset because none of these animals really corresponded to the symbolic name of “centipede”. Illacme plenipes is also discreet because it lives at a depth of more than 10 meters. There was therefore reason to wonder if there was a mistake because it had no longer been observed in the wild before two American entomologists, Paul Marek and Jason Bond, found its trace in 2005.
However, 2020, a new twist in the scientific world: a new species of myriapod has been identified! And its number of legs is greater than that of Illacme plenipes.
What is the largest centipede in the world today?
Thus, we discovered the first true centipede: Eumillipes persephone. The first part of her name is constructed from the Greek prefix eu-, which means “true”, and the word millipes which literally means “a thousand feet”. Mythology enthusiasts will then have recognized the term Persephone, the queen of the Underworld because It lives at a depth of 60 meters. It was discovered at the bottom of a mining borehole in Western Australia. Hence the idea of giving it the name of an underground divinity.
Is it really a centipede?
Eumillipes persephone does not resemble any known centipede since it is the first, and for the moment the only one, to have a thousand legs. In fact, it even exceeds this mythical threshold since it displays 1306 legs! So, we had to create a family just for him: that of the Siphonotidae. It is true that Eumillipes persephone pales in comparison to Archispirostreptus gigas because it only measures 10 cm in length.
Given its underground life, it is colorless. Scientists believe that it lived on the earth’s surface when it was more humid. But the evolution of humidity led it to continue its life in the depths. It thrives in soil composed of rocks, pebbles and earth.
The competition for the title of the world’s largest centipede remains open. The history of scientific discoveries in this field shows that we are far from knowing everything about the living world that animates planet Earth. So who knows: perhaps we will discover an animal that will exceed the measurements of those mentioned here…