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Open Access On the function of the ultimate legs of some Scolopendridae (Chilopoda, Scolopendromorpha)

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The function of the variously shaped ultimate legs of Scolopendridae is briefly reviewed. Their function in Scolopendra heros Girard, 1853, Scolopendra subspinipes Leach, 1815, Scolopendra morsitans (Linnaeus, 1758), Scolopendra galapagoensis Bollman, 1889, Scolopendra hainanum Kronmüller, 2012, Scolopendra spinosissima Kraepelin, 1903 Cormocephalus aurantiipes (Newport, 1844) and Ethmostigmus trigonopodus (Leach, 1817), in which they are least specialised has been investigated. Specimens were tapped with forceps on different parts of the trunk to simulate the attack of a predator. When tapped on the first third of the trunk (near the head), the centipedes attacked the forceps with their forcipules. When tapped on the last third or the ultimate legs, they adopted a warning position, raising the ultimate legs to display the ventral and medial prefemoral spines as well as the spined coxopleural processes. In some cases the centipedes attacked the forceps with the claws of the ultimate legs by chopping down on them after lifting the legs high into the warning position. When tapped in the mid part of the trunk, the centipedes curled sideways to reach the forceps with their forcipules and ultimate legs simultaneously. Scolopendra galapagoensis not only lifted the ultimate legs into the warning position but also the last 3-4 pairs of locomotory legs, presenting their distodorsal prefemoral spines. This resembles the warning posture of some spiders. In addition to their function in warning behaviour, defensive stabbing, ritualised meeting reactions and during courtship behaviour, the ultimate legs may in addition act as hooks and perhaps be involved in species recognition. No evidence was found that the ultimate legs are used to catch prey, nor of prey or predators being held between the prefemora.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2015

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