January isn’t the most ideal time to look for most types of invertebrates in northeast Ohio, but on above-freezing days some cool things can turn up. This month I found a few of these distinctive looking creatures by lifting rocks in my backyard.
Centipedes (which in Latin means “hundred foot”) are exclusively predatory creatures. Because their exoskeletons lack a waxy coating that helps to retain water inside their bodies, centipedes require moist environments to survive.
This particular type is known as a Stone Centipede; it was a species that I often encountered as a child growing up in Cleveland when looking for bugs. Though we used to call them “Hundred Leggers,” they only have 15 pairs of legs. They thrive in soil, leaf litter, under rocks and inside dead wood or logs.
Centipedes are some of the oldest terrestrial animals and were some of the very first creatures to crawl from the sea onto the land. The first centipedes were probably very similar in appearance to modern centipedes. All are nocturnal and actively hunt down insects and other small animals.
To subdue prey, this creature uses “poison claws” which are located on each side of its head. At less than two inches in total length, the Stone Centipede is harmless to humans, but deadly to spiders, sowbugs and any other smaller creature it may encounter.