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The ‘Swiss Army knife’ legs of a house centipede

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So. Many. Legs. Thirty legs arranged in a fluttery burst-like arrangement. This is the Scutigera coleoptrata, a house centipede. And though some may think they’re creepy or gross, or dangerous to humans (they’re not), consider this: Their legs are useful in surprising ways. From Deep Look:

“Basically arthropods are Swiss army knives,” said Greg Edgecombe, a paleontologist who specializes in centipedes at the Natural History Museum, London. “They differentiate the legs for different functions.”

When it hunts, for example, the house centipede uses its legs as a rope to restrain prey in a tactic called “lassoing.” The tip of each leg is so finely segmented and flexible that it can coil around its victim to prevent escape.

They have fangs that are venom-delivering, leg-cleaning, prey-grabbing modified legs called forciples, and hind-legs that seem to function like antennae. And they run fast, about 40.64 centimeters (16 inches) a second, “which is pound for pound about the same as a human running 42 mph.”

Bonus: They’re insectivores, so they help keep other bugs at bay.

Next, watch more Deep Look and more videos about insects, including Why Do Millipedes Have So Many Legs?


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