Say ‘hello’ to the centipede from hell

Hades centipede
CC BY 3.0 J. Bedek

Scientists have discovered a new species of centipede that calls the underworld its home.

What lurks below? A wild array of creatures adapted to survive in the dark vaults of life underground, some known to science, many not. Now a new species can be added to the “known” list: Geophilus hadesi, a centipede named after Hades, the God of the underworld. Living more than half a mile beneath the surface of the Earth, the Hades centipede takes the prize for being the deepest underground dwelling centipede thus far discovered.

Found at 3,600 feet (1,100 meters) below ground by members of the Croatian Biospeleological Society in caves of the Velebit Mountains of Croatia, the area plays home to an impressive array of subterranean diversity in some of the deeper caves on the planet. The area’s Lukina Jama–Trojama cave system is currently ranked as the 15th deepest cave in the world.

Centipedes are carnivores and are often found in caves, but members of the order to which the Hades centipede belongs, geophilomorphs, are generally only found in caves on occasion. Species from this order who spend their entire lives in a cave setting are extremely rare. In fact, there are only two; the Hades centipede and its predecessor, the Persephone centipede. (Aww.)

And while we can assume the name was selected for the depth of the critter’s home, quite frankly, its wonderfully adapted attributes add to the mood. It boasts super elongated antennae, trunk segments and leg claws (leg claws!). Not to mention powerful jaws tricked out with poison glands and long curved claws enabling the strongest of grasps to tightly secure its prey. It’s a one of the fiercest predators to reign in the dark abyss.

"When I first saw the animal and its striking appearance, I immediately realized that this is a new, hitherto unnamed and highly adapted to cave environment species,” says Pavel Stoev, the lead author describing the discovery. “This finding comes to prove once again how little we know about the life in caves, where even in the best prospected areas, one can still find incredible animals."

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