Chilopoda or Scolopendrida
Scolopendrid centipedes have an elongated, dorso-ventrally flattened
body with a distinct head. The head bears a single pair of antennae
and three pairs of feeding appendages (a mandible and two pairs of maxillae).
The trunk can have from 15 to over 100 segments each bearing a single
pair of legs which results in their characteristic locomotion, and centipedes
can measure up to 120mm in length The first pair of trunk appendages
is known as the maxillipedes or toxognatha and has powerful terminal
claws at the tips, which have ducts leading to poison glands. Centipedes
cannot usually pierce human skin and are unlikely to be poisonous but
it is best to treat them with respect.
They are generally nocturnal predators and feed on other smaller arthropods.
During the day they hide under rocks, stones and debris. Female Scolopendrids
care for their young by making a protective basket between the body
and legs, formed by curling their legs around the young.
Centipedes in the UAE
Lewis & Gallagher (1993) mention various records of scolopendrids
for UAE although they probably occur in most areas. Scolopendrida
mirabilis has been found in Masah, Sharjah and Jebel Faiyah while
Scolopendrida valida was collected near Sharjah. Both species
are thought to be very resistant to desiccation.
The medical importance of centipedes was probably overestimated in the
past since only very old records mention human fatalities (Lewis, 1986).
However, the bite of S.mirabilis is though to be like that of
a similar genus Trachycormocephalus which causes pain, swelling
and subcutaneous bleeding. The area around the bite is particularly
tender but most symptoms disappear within 24 hours. First aid treatment
for a centipede bite is similar to that for scorpion stings although
it is less likely to be life threatening