House Centipedes Use Their Legs Like Lassos to Catch Prey

iStock.com/Ivan Marjanovic
iStock.com/Ivan Marjanovic

You thought house centipedes were already creepy enough without needing to know the graphic details of how they catch and kill their prey. But in case you were wondering, they sometimes use their legs like lassos to rope in and restrain their victims, London-based paleontologist Greg Edgecombe tells Deep Look, a web series created by KQED San Francisco and presented by PBS Digital Studios. That's not the only way they use their legs, either. “Basically arthropods are Swiss army knives,” Edgecombe says. “They differentiate the legs for different functions.”

In addition to using their flexible legs to put their prey in a triangle choke like an agile MMA fighter, they may even use their long hind legs in mating rituals. Their back legs contain as many sensory hairs as their antennae, and the two parts are often confused because they are similar in both length and appearance. Researchers say centipedes do a kind of ritual courtship dance in which the male and female arthropods raise and lower their back legs and antennae. There’s also some “mutual tapping and probing” involved.

The insects are cannibalistic, venomous, and exceptionally fast runners—but don’t worry, they rarely bite humans. Their long fangs, known as forciples, are actually modified legs. The forciples are not only used to hold their defenseless prey in place and inject venom, but also to clean and lubricate the sensory hairs along their legs.

By the way, despite popular belief, centipedes usually don’t have 100 legs. Most species have fewer than 60, and baby centipedes only have eight. As they grow, they develop more and more legs.

If you aren’t thoroughly grossed out by now, check out Deep Look’s creepy, crawly video below, featuring none other than the humble house centipede.

[h/t The Kids Should See This]

The Time German and Russian WWI Soldiers Banded Together to Fight Wolves

iStock.com/567185
iStock.com/567185

During the winter of 1917, Russian and German soldiers fighting in the dreary trenches of the Great War’s Eastern Front had a lot to fear: enemy bullets, trench foot, frostbite, countless diseases, shrapnel, bayonets, tanks, sniper fire. Oh, and wolves.

In February of that year, a dispatch from Berlin noted that large packs of wolves were creeping from the forests of Lithuania and Volhynia into the interior of the German Empire, not far from the front lines. Like so many living creatures, the animals had been driven from their homes by the war and were now simply looking for something to eat. “As the beasts are very hungry, they penetrate into the villages and kill calves, sheep, goats, and other livestock,” the report, which appeared in the El Paso Herald, says. “In two cases children have been attacked by them.”

According to another dispatch out of St. Petersburg, the wolves were such a nuisance on the battlefield that they were one of the few things that could bring soldiers from both sides together. “Parties of Russian and German scouts met recently and were hotly engaged in a skirmish when a large pack of wolves dashed on the scene and attacked the wounded,” the report says, according to the Oklahoma City Times. “Hostilities were at once suspended and Germans and Russians instinctively attacked the pack, killing about 50 wolves.” It was an unspoken agreement among snipers that, if the Russians and Germans decided to engage in a collective wolf-hunt, all firing would cease.

Take this July 1917 New York Times report describing how soldiers in the Kovno-Wilna Minsk district (near modern Vilnius, Lithuania) decided to cease hostilities to fight this furry common enemy:

"Poison, rifle fire, hand grenades, and even machine guns were successively tried in attempts to eradicate the nuisance. But all to no avail. The wolves—nowhere to be found quite so large and powerful as in Russia—were desperate in their hunger and regardless of danger. Fresh packs would appear in place of those that were killed by the Russian and German troops.

"As a last resort, the two adversaries, with the consent of their commanders, entered into negotiations for an armistice and joined forces to overcome the wolf plague. For a short time there was peace. And in no haphazard fashion was the task of vanquishing the mutual foe undertaken. The wolves were gradually rounded up, and eventually several hundred of them were killed. The others fled in all directions, making their escape from carnage the like of which they had never encountered."

Afterward, the soldiers presumably returned to their posts and resumed pointing their rifles at a more violent and dangerous enemy—each other.

Think You Know Sharks? Try to Sort the Real Species From the Fake Ones

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER