Did you know that, pound for pound, spider silk is stronger than steel? Or that if you rounded up all the ants on Earth they’d weigh more than all the people? Want to get up close and personal with a big yellow banana slug or a walking stick hiding in plain sight? Visitors can see all this and more at our upcoming Creepy Crawlies exhibit! Opening March 29th 2016, it will offer a glimpse into the hidden lives of these fascinating yet sometimes misunderstood little creatures.
Museum staff are already hard at work preparing for the exhibit, so we thought we’d offer a behind-the-scenes look at one of our new live animals: a gorgeous adult Vietnamese centipede. This impressive arthropod is about 8 inches long when fully grown. Here at the Children’s Museum it eats crickets, but in the wild they’ll chomp down on anything they can catch, including the occasional rodent or frog! Despite their name, they’re found all over Southeast Asia, not just Vietnam. Similar but smaller species of centipede are even found right here in the United States, mainly in the southwest.
Photo credit- “Scolopendra subspinipes mutilans DSC 1438” by Yasunori Koide. Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons
Centipedes use their speed, legs, and venomous bite to catch and subdue prey. They live about 10 years and hide in burrows or under rocks. Many people wonder about the difference between centipedes and millipedes- centipedes only have 1 pair of legs per body segment, and are predators. Their slower-moving relatives, the millipedes, have 2 pairs of legs per body segment and eat plants and decaying plant matter.
Now, we know that some of our more bug-averse visitors might be EW!-ing from their seats, but remember that centipedes and all the other “creepy crawlies” are important parts of their complex ecosystems. They help keep the balance in the populations of the prey that they eat. They also serve as a food source for birds and reptiles. Centipedes, like most venomous insects or spiders, will only attack if provoked. We hope that seeing an unusual creature like this Vietnamese centipede will inspire our visitors to learn about more animals, as well as the world around us!