Giant Desert Centipede

Scolopendra heros

Fascinating Facts

  • Centipedes use structures called gnathosomes or gnathopods to inject venom into their prey. These are paired pincer-like appendages in front of the legs. The “bite” is actually a pinch.
  • They are distant relatives of lobsters, crayfish, and shrimp.

Physical Characteristics

Centipedes have a rounded or flattened head, bearing a pair of antennae at the forward margin. They have a pair of elongated mandibles, and two pairs of maxillae. The first pair of maxillae form the lower lip, and bear short palps. The first pair of limbs stretch forward from the body to cover the remainder of the mouth. These limbs, or maxillipeds, end in sharp claws and include venom glands that help the animal to kill or paralyse its prey.


In general, centipedes can live in a wide variety of habitats. They can be found not only in a desert habitat, but also in the tropics, and at the seashore. Centipedes can be found under stones, logs, bark, in crevices, and in litter and soil. The desert centipede is found throughout the southern United States and into Mexico.

They are carnivores eating such foods as insects, lizards, frogs, and rodents.

Status In The Wild

Desert centipedes are currently doing fine in the wild and have no special conservation status.


The centipede can be found at the Insect Zoo.

Animals & Exhibits