Zelanion antipodus Click to enlarge image
Earth Centipede, Zelanion antipodus Image: Andrew Donnelly
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    antipodus
    Genus
    Zelanion
    Family
    Chilenophilidae
    Order
    Geophilomorpha
    Subclass
    Pleurostigmophora
    Class
    Chilopoda
    Subphylum
    Uniramia
    Phylum
    Arthopoda
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    3.5 cm

Introduction

This and other earth centipedes belong to the group Geophilomorpha, which means 'earth-loving'.

Identification

There are several species of earth centipedes commonly found in Sydney and their short legs and rectangular-shaped head allow them to move easily through soil and leaf litter. Geophilomorphs can be distinguished from other centipedes by their long and slender body with anywhere between 27 and 191 pairs of legs. All earth centipedes are blind and have specially adapted comb-like mouthparts for sweeping and rasping liquefied prey that they catch in the soil.

Habitat

Earth centipedes live in urban areas, forests and woodlands.

Distribution

Earth centipedes are found in Tasmania, southern mainland Australia and New Zealand.

Life history cycle

Female earth centipedes lay their eggs in leaf litter or soil. They don't feed while brooding and roll their body protectively around their egg cluster. The young hatch with the full number of adult legs and, after moulting twice, leave the brood or risk being eaten by the mother.