Centipedes are terrestrial arthropods belonging to the class Chilopoda and the Subphylum Myriapoda. They are elongated metameric animals with one pair of legs per body segment. A key trait uniting this group is a pair of poison claws or forcipules formed from a modified first appendage. This also means that centipedes are an exclusively predatory taxa, which is uncommon.
Centipedes 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 colors. Size can range from a few millimeters in the smaller Lithobiomorphs and Geophilomorphs to about a foot in the largest Scolopendromorphs.
Worldwide there are estimated to be 8,000 species. Currently there are about 3,000 described species. Geographically, centipedes have a wide range, which reaches beyond the Arctic Circle. Centipedes are found in an array of terrestrial habitats from tropical rainforests to deserts. Within these habitats centipedes require a moist micro-habitat due to their rapid rates of water loss. Accordingly, they are found in soil and leaf litter, under stones and deadwood, and inside logs. In addition, centipedes are among the largest terrestrial invertebrate predators and often they contribute a significant proportion to invertebrate predatory biomass in terrestrial ecosystems.
Scolopendra gigantea, also known as the Amazonian giant centipede, is the largest existing species of centipede in the world, reaching over 30 cm (12 inches) in length. It is known to eat bats, catching them in midflight, as well as rodents and spiders.