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Natural UAE

Centipedes 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.

Centipede bites
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

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