Centipedes (from New Latin centi-, "hundred", and Latin pes, pedis, "foot") are predatory arthropods belonging to the class Chilopoda (Ancient Greek χεῖλος, kheilos, lip, and New Latin suffix -poda, "foot", describing the forcipules) of the subphylum Myriapoda, an arthropod group which includes millipedes and other multi-legged animals. Centipedes are elongated segmented (metameric) creatures with one pair of legs per body segment. All centipedes are venomous and can inflict painful bites, injecting their venom through pincer-like appendages known as forcipules. Despite the name, centipedes can have a varying number of legs, ranging from 30 to 382. Centipedes always have an odd number of pairs of legs; no centipede has exactly 100. Like spiders and scorpions, centipedes are predominantly carnivorous.
Their size ranges from a few millimetres in the smaller lithobiomorphs and geophilomorphs to about 30 cm (12 in) 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 (cave-dwelling) and subterranean species may lack pigmentation, while many tropical scolopendromorphs have bright aposematic colors.
Worldwide, an estimated 8,000 species of centipedes are thought to exist, of which 3,000 have been described. Centipedes have a wide geographical range, even reaching beyond the Arctic Circle. They are found in an array of terrestrial habitats from tropical rainforests to deserts. Within these habitats, centipedes 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.
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