There are 136 described species of centipedes (Scolopendra) in Australia, from 43 genera. Scolopendra are found across Ausralia, including arid regions like Central Australia. Whilst the genus Scolopendra are found around he world, they vary in colour and size, this genus being mostly large.

Centipede at Simpsons Gap, West MacDonnell Ranges, NT © Ausemade PL

Their body consists of segments with one pair of legs per segment. Centipedes can have from 20 to 300 legs, depending on the genus. They do not have the waxy cuticle found in other insects and can quickly lose body moisture. As a consequent they are found inhabiting moist and humid habitats such as leaf litter, fallen timber, under rocks or where the soil has moisture. They can often be seen on humid nights after rain.

Centipede at Simpsons Gap, West MacDonnell Ranges, NT © Ausemade PL

All centipedes are voracious predators of small invertebrates. Whilst centipedes are venomous, their bites are not necessarily fatal, injecting venom through their forcipules (modified legs on the first body segment). Their bite can cause severe pain, causing swellings and fever-like symptoms.

Native Centipede at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. This centipede emerged after the recent rain, the ground still very wet © Greg Sully
  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Chilopoda
  • Order: Scolopendromorpha
  • Family: Scolopendridae
  • Genus: Scolopendra