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DISPLAYING POSTS TAGGED: bugs alive (3)

Do centipedes have 100 legs?

Author
by Simon
Publish date
2 October 2012
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Your Question: Do centipedes really have 100 legs?

Despite a common name that means 100 legs, Australian species of centipede can have from 15 to 191 pairs of legs. Australia currently has 128 species of centipede out of a worldwide fauna of between 2,500 and 3,000 species.

Centipede fangs Centipede fangs
Image: Dr Ken Wlker
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The Australian species range from around 10 mm in length up to 140mm for our largest, the Giant Centipede (Ethmostigmus rubripes). The world's largest species is Scolopendra gigantea which occurs in northern South America and can reach up to 300mm in length.

Centipede - Scolopendra morsitans Centipede - Scolopendra morsitans.
Image: Alan Henderson
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Despite many people thinking that the venomous end of centipedes is at the rear, the venom claws are actually at the front end of the centipede. These claws are linked to venom glands which are used by the centipedes in hunting for prey and for defence. Centipedes can be fast-moving and voracious hunters with some species capable of catching and killing frogs, small reptiles and mice. Centipede reproduction can involve a period of antenna stroking or a ritualised dance and the eggs are guarded by the female in a number of species.

Mechanoreceptor on a centipede's antenna Mechanoreceptor on a centipede's antenna
Image: Dr Ken Walker
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Many people's experience of centipedes is to find one of the aptly named house centipedes running around in their bath. These centipedes are often an introduced species. Australia's centipedes are important predators in the invertebrate world and amazing animals to watch. Interestingly millipedes, whose common name means 1,000 legs, fall short in the legs area although some species count up to 350 pairs. Check out one of the distant relatives of centipedes and millipedes, the 100cm long Arthropleura model in the 600 Million Years exhibition at Melbourne Museum.

Got a question? Ask us!

Links:

Bugs!

CSIRO Centipedes of Australia

CSIRO. Chilopoda, centipedes

Australian Venom Research Unit, Centipedes

Fun with funnel-webs

Author
by Colin
Publish date
21 November 2011
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Bugs Alive! highlights not only the highly venomous Sydney funnel-web spider (Atrax robustus), but also the diversity of Australian funnel-web spiders. There are currently 35 known species in Australia, and it is likely that more await description. Many southeastern Australians may not be aware that they too may have funnel-web spiders living in their backyard. Don't panic, aside from the Sydney Funnel-web, the majority of Australian funnel-web spiders do not pose a threat to us. In fact, most spiders are harmless. Of the estimated 10,000 species (only about 3000 have been named) that are native to Australia, only two pose a serious threat to human life.

The Australian funnel-web spider family Hexathelidae belongs to the primitive infraorder Mygalomorphae, which includes the trapdoor spiders, mouse spiders, and the large theraphosids (better known as tarantulas). Mygalomorphs can be distinguished from other spiders by having paraxial or parallel fangs (chelicerae), and an extra pair of book lungs.

funnel-web burrow A typical funnel-shaped entrance to a funnel-web spider burrow.
Image: Colin Silvey
Source: Museum Victoria
 

To keep our spiders healthy and stress-free, we rotate them off display so that each individual is on show only one month per year. To do this we must collect spiders from the wild to ensure that we have enough to keep the rotation flowing smoothly. Chloe wrote in April about a previous spider-hunting trip. Last week we went to the Nariel Valley in northwest Victoria, Violet Town in central Victoria and the Central Highlands (Narbethong-Acheron Gap, Victoria) to collect three different species of funnel-web spiders.

Alpine Wolf Spider Not all burrows contain funnel-web spiders. This one we dug up was occupied by this beautiful Alpine Wolf Spider (Lycosidae).
Image: Colin Silvey
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Our first stop was the Nariel Valley where we searched for the mighty Alpine Funnel-web (Hadronyche alpina). This is a newly-described species that is found, you guessed it, in the alpine environments of Victoria and N.S.W. They are impressive spiders with big black hairy bodies, and a mean temper to boot!

After collecting our quota of H. alpina, we drove west towards Violet Town, near Benalla, in search of the Central Victorian Funnel-web, H. meridiana. We had heard reports that a resident in Violet Town had found some in her backyard, and upon contacting her, she agreed to us collecting them. After lifting some old carpet lying on the ground, we found burrows galore! It didn't take us very long to collect all the spiders we needed before setting off to track down our third target species H. modesta.

man digging up spider burrow Exciting stuff! Live Exhibits keeper Adam Elliott excavating a burrow belonging to H. meridiana.
Image: Colin Silvey
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Funnel-web spider in burrow Funnel-web spider (H. meridiana) about to be removed from her burrow.
Image: Colin Silvey
Source: Museum Victoria
 

funnel-web spider threat display Hadronyche meridiana showing off her threat display. If you look closely you might be able to see the paraxial chelicerae that define the mygalomorph spiders.
Image: Colin Silvey
Source: Museum Victoria
 

H. modesta, or the Southern Victorian Funnel-web can be found around Victorian cool temperate sclerophyll forests ranging from just north of Melbourne, to the eastern end of the Strzelecki Ranges in South Gippsland. Unfortunately, after much searching, we failed to find any H. modesta. We are always on the lookout for any reports of glossy black spiders that burrow, so, if you live in the eastern or northeastern suburbs and see this spider around, let us know and we might come pay you a visit!

Further reading:

Walker, K.L., Yen, A.L. & Milledge, G.A. 2003. Spiders and Scorpions Commonly Found in Victoria. The Royal Society of Victoria. (Beginner)

Grey, M. R. 2010. A Revision of the Australian Funnel Web Spiders (Hexathelidae: Atracinae). Records of the Australian Museum. Vol. 62: 285–392. (Advanced)

TV crew in Bugs Alive

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
25 February 2011
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What's going on here behind the aquatic invertebrate display?

Water Scorpion in Bugs Alive A Water Scorpion in Bugs Alive hanging out while the TV crew sets up.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Saturday morning TV show Kids' WB have been shooting in Melbourne Museum's Science and Life Galleries today, with a special visit to Bugs Alive this afternoon. Some of the museum's young visitors were very excited to see hosts Lauren and Andrew but for the resident insects, it was all in a day's work.

Chloe, Lauren and Andrew filming Chloe from Live Exhibits and Kids' WB hosts Lauren and Andrew filming in Bugs Alive.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Chloe, one of our Live Exhibits keepers, brought out some special big invertebrates for Lauren and Andrew to hold. Let's just say that Andrew enjoyed this bit more than Lauren...

Chloe Chloe shows Lauren and Andrew a Spiny Leaf Insect.
Source: Museum Victoria
 

You can see Melbourne Museum featured on Kids' WB when this epidsode screens on Channel 9 at 10am on 5 March.

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.

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