The House Centipede is Fast, Furious, and Just So Extra | Deep Look
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The House Centipede is Fast, Furious, and Just So Extra | Deep Look


You can now support Deep Look on Patreon! Details after the show. Ever get that creepy-crawly feeling when you’re
in the garage at night? That phantom tickle on the back of your neck? Well, there IS something out there, waiting
in the dark. The house centipede. It’s voracious, venomous, and the fastest
centipede there is. But don’t worry. It wouldn’t hurt a fly. Oh…not quite true. So, let’s clear something up right now. Despite their name, centipedes almost never
have a hundred legs. Most have fewer than sixty. And the tiny monster in your garage starts
out with only eight. Until it grows, sheds its exoskeleton, and
sprouts more legs. Then it sheds again. And again. And again. And again. And again, until it finally gets to 30. All those legs work together in a rippling,
rolling motion called a metachronal wave. It’s kind of the same way a worm gets around. But, the centipede is way, way faster, propelled
by these extra-long, super-charged legs in the back. Think of it as a well-synchronized crew boat,
skimming over the water with the strongest rowers in the rear, and the ones in front
keeping things steady. A set of stiff plates running down the centipede’s
back, called tergites, keep the segments underneath, called sternites, from rocking side-to-side. But the house centipede still has legs to
spare. And it’s found some novel ways to put them
to work. Those extra-EXTRA long ones at the very end
sort of look like antennae, don’t they? That’s the idea. It’s called automimicry, when one part of
the animal looks like another part, usually to fool predators, or prey. That’s what people always thought. But when scientists in Germany took a closer
look at these legs, they found as many sensory hairs on them as on the antennae. So these “faux” antennae aren’t just
dummies. They actually work. And see those fangs up front? Those are its forciples. In some early ancestor, they used
to be legs too. They clamp down and inject the venom. But house centipedes rarely bite people. Those forciples are also a great grooming
tool. Oh, aaanndd… the tip of each centipede leg
is another kind of tool, one so super-segmented that it’s almost like a rope. The centipede uses them as a lasso to keep
its prey from escaping. Not even this cricket, with its powerful kick,
can loosen the grip. So twinkle-toes here is kind of a creepy Swiss
Army knife. You might say it’s got a few legs up on
the competition. OK, OK, bad pun, I know. Centipedes are really methodical groomers. Kind of like cats. They start with the front legs and work their
way to the back. Join our Deep Look community on Patreon. Click the button or link below to get rewards
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