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Desert Diary



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Ever sit at a railroad crossing and watch boxcar after boxcar pass in front of you? That must be what an ant feels like watching a Giant Desert Centipede pass by. Six to eight inches long, segment after segment after segment makes up their elongated bodies. "Centipede" means "hundred feet", and although a bit of an exaggeration, it almost seems true, with each body segment bearing a pair of legs.

The coloration is telling: orange and black! This is no shrinking violet slinking around hoping to escape detection—this is, "Here I am—move aside!" These warning colors advertise that it's one dangerous critter, with the front pair of leg-like structures designed to inject poison—painful, though not especially dangerous to humans.

These are predators, dangerous to every animal up to the size of a small rodent. Fast moving, they're active hunters, running down their prey rather than ambushing. If you're a day person, you may never see one of these fascinating animals; having little protection from dehydration, they ply their trade only at night. pen and ink


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.



A desert centipede, El Paso, TX. Photograph by George Shaw.



Web Resources

BackyardBUGwatching. Egg-laying and young of the giant desert centipede.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Photos of three kinds of centipedes, including the desert centipede and the house centipede.