Thalassisobates littoralis, Seil Island, Scotland. Photograph copyright Tony Barber
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Centipedes are relatively large animals, 5mm to 80mm or more, distinguished by having the first pair of legs modified as poison claws (forcipules) which lie under the head and 15 to more than a hundred further trunk segments (always an odd number) each bearing a single pair of legs. Unlike the mostly herbivorous millipedes, centipedes are carnivores and often very active when disturbed. In the orders Scutigeromorpha and Lithobiomorpha (and the Australasian Craterostigmomorpha) the youngest (larval) stages have fewer leg pairs than adults but in Scutigeromorpha and Geophilomorpha the animals are born with a complete set (which may vary as between sexes and within a species); this can be useful in the identification of geophilomorphs.

About 3,000 species of centipedes have been described worldwide of which about 1,000 are members of the order Geophilomorpha which contains a number of littoral species.


These are very active animals with 15 pairs of extremely long legs and compound eyes which includes the so called “house centipede” Scutigera coleoptrata Linné, 1758.

Pallas (1772) wrote of Julus araneoides (Scutigera coleoptrata) as “insectum pelagicum ab amico mihi Navarcho quodam inter susceptos in Oceano Atlantico Fuci natatis fasciculos”. Scutigeromorphs are seen in coastal localities in various parts of the world. In Jersey S. coleoptrata has been collected amongst large pebbles above high water mark and seems to occur in similar situations on the French Channel coast (Barber 2006).

Scutigera coleoptrata (Linnaeus, 1758)
Habitat: This species is either supralittoral or can be found in...
North Mediterranean; Europe; Asia; North America...
    = Julus araneoides Linnaeus, 1758 


These are relatively short bodied, active species with 15 leg pairs in the adult and usually, although not always, with one or more ocelli on each side of the head.

In the British Provisional Atlas (Barber & Keay 1988) some 10 lithobiomorphs are all recorded at least once from sea shore sites. These include both the ubiquitous Lithobius forficatus (Linné, 1758) and also L. melanops Newport, 1845, a species also common in gardens and similar disturbed sites. None of the species, however, appear to be truly halophilic. Takano (1980) shows Lithobius ellipticus Takakuwa 1939 as intertidally recorded in his Fig. 4.

Lithobius ellipticus Takakuwa, 1939
Habitat: Shown as intertidally recorded by Takano (1980)
Lithobius forficatus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Habitat: This species is either supralittoral or can be found in...
Europe; Greenland; Iceland; Russia; USA; Brazil; St. Helena...
    = Scolopendra forficata Linnaeus, 1758 
Lithobius melanops Newport, 1845
Habitat: This species is either supralittoral or can be found in...
Europe; Iceland; Canary Islands; Newfoundland and Labrador...


Scolopendromorphs include the so called “giant centipedes” of the tropics as well as other species. Typically they have 21 or 23 leg pairs, are relatively short bodied and active and may be blind or have a four ocelli on each side.

Cryptops hortensis (Donovan, 1810) was listed as one of their species from shore sites by Barber & Keay (1988) but not as a true halophile, however Demange (1963) does describe what appears to be the first halophilic scolopendromorph, Campylostigmus plessisi from Nouvelle Caledonie.

Campylostigmus plessisi Demange, 1963
New Caledonia
Cryptops hortensis (Donovan, 1810)
Habitat: This species is either supralittoral or can be found in...
Europe; Iberian Peninsula; North Africa; North Mediterranean...
Scolopendra morsitans Linnaeus, 1758
India; Samoa; Somalia; Algeria


Long bodied, blind species with numerous leg pairs (31 to more than a hundred) sometimes called wire-centipedes or wireworms.

Possibly up to nine families of this order contain apparently halophilic species and within these are 17 (probably more) genera containing halophilic species (Table 1). The total number of halophilic geophilomorphs recorded in a recent list (Barber, 2009) is 45. Most of these are from Europe, Western United States, the Caribbean, South America, Japan and Australia/New Zealand. There are few records from the Atlantic coast of USA or from Canada, very few African records and little from much of Asia other than Japan, Korea and Taiwan. It is highly improbable that there are no species occurring on these coasts. In addition it is possible that some species for which no habitat data is given (e.g. for California / Baja California, South Africa, New Zealand) may well be halophilic and also finding littoral species in some habitats (e.g. rock crevices) is not always easy. An estimate of 100 plus species from around the world seems reasonable. There are certainly reports in the literature of seashore centipedes where the species was not identified: Cape Verde Is, Galápagos, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica (Crossland, 1929, Polhemus & Evans, 1969). Probably there are as yet undescribed littoral species in collections and it is quite likely that some described species where habitat was not given may well be littoral.

Aphilodon maritimus Lawrence, 1963
South Africa
Ballophilus riveroi Chamberlin, 1950
Habitat: One adult male, closely agreeing with Chamberlin's desc...
West Indies
Caritohallex minirrhopus Crabill, 1960
Habitat: Berlese sampling of beach debris, Sea Cow Bay, Tortola ...
West Indies
Erithophilus neopus Cook, 1899
Habitat: Recorded without habitat data by Cook but L.A.Pereira (...
Geophilus admarinus Chamberlin, 1952
Habitat: SE Alaska (Redd Bay): Numerous specimens taken under st...
Geophilus algarum Brölemann, 1909
Habitat: littoral zone, among algae
European waters (ERMS scope); France
Geophilus algarum var. decipiens
Geophilus becki Chamberlin, 1951
Habitat: Cabrillo Beach near San Pedro: under rocks and kelp at ...
Geophilus carpophagus Leach, 1814
Habitat: This species is either supralittoral or can be found in...
United Kingdom; Italy; Italy; Tunisia; Germany; Schleswig-Holstein...
Geophilus flavus (De Geer, 1778)
Europe; Tristan da Cunha; Italy; Italy; Germany; Northern Europe...
    = Necrophloeophagus flavus (De Geer, 1778) 
    = Necrophloeophagus longicornis (Leach, 1814) (synonymy) 
    = Scolopendra flava De Geer, 1778 (basionym) 
Geophilus fucorum Brölemann, 1900
Habitat: Littoral zone. "Vit sur les greves et dans les cordons...
European waters (ERMS scope); Mediterranean Sea...
Geophilus gracilis Meinert, 1870
Brittany; Ireland; England; Algeria; Chile; Greece
    = Geophilus fucorum seurati Brölemann, 1924 (synonym) 
Geophilus naxius Verhoeff, 1901
Habitat: This species is either supralittoral or can be found in...
Greece; Greece; Greece; Greece
Geophilus pusillifrater Verhoeff, 1898
England; Brittany; Bosnia and Herzegovina
Geophilus vittatus (Raffinesque, 1820)
Habitat: This species is either supralittoral or can be found in...
United States
    = Geophilus deducens Chamberlin, 1909 (synonymy) 
    = Geophilus rubens Say, 1821 (synonymy) 
Henia bicarinata (Meinert, 1870)
Habitat: Recorded from both inland and littoral sites. "Espece l...
European waters (ERMS scope); Mediterranean Sea...
    = Scotophilus bicarinata Meinert, 1870 (basionym) 
Henia vesuviana (Newport, 1844)
Habitat: This species is either supralittoral or can be found in...
England; France; Central Europe; North Africa; Italy...
Hydroschendyla submarina (Grube, 1872)
Habitat: Littoral zone at or below high water mark. Rock crevic...
European waters (ERMS scope); Channel Islands...
    = Geophilus submarinus Grube, 1872 (basionym) 
    = Schendyla submarina Grube, 1872 (basionym) 
Hydroschendyla submarina f. egregia Latzel, 1890
Habitat: Rock crevices.
Lionyx hedgepethi Chamberlin, 1960
Habitat: Near Dillon Beach, Marin County: under stones between t...
Mecistocephalus manazurensis Shinohara, 1961
Habitat: Manazaru: seashore (Shinohara, 1961)
Mecistocephalus satumensis Takakuwa, 1938
Habitat: Takano (1980) shows this intertidally from the Kanto re...
Mixophilus indicus Silvestri, 1929
Habitat: Coiled within loose mud; found when searching for the p...
Nyctunguis heathi (Chamberlin, 1909)
Habitat: Montery County: fairly common in some areas in crevices...
    = Pectiniunguis heathi Chamberlin, 1909 (basionym) 
Orphnaeus brevilabiatus (Newport, 1845)
Habitat: This species is either supralittoral or can be found in...
Angola; Australia; Cameroon; Central America; Japan...
Pachymerium ferrugineum (C.L.Koch, 1835)
Scandinavia; Central Europe; Iberian Peninsula...
    = Geophilus ferrugineum C.L.Koch, 1835 (basionym) 
Pachymerium ferrugineum insulanum Verhoeff, 1902
Greece; Black Sea; Czech Republic; Spain
Pectiniunguis albermarlensis Chamberlin, 1914
Habitat: Collected at Bahia Darwin, Cryptocarpus (1), Beach stra...
Galapagos Islands
Pectiniunguis americanus Bollman, 1889
Habitat: Described from Pichilingue Bay, Gulf of California: ess...
Gulf of California; Florida; Mexico
Pectiniunguis amphibius Chamberlin, 1923
Habitat: Danzante & Carmen Islands: below high tide mark and res...
Gulf of California
Pectiniunguis bollmani Pereira, Foddai & Minelli, 1999
Habitat: Cayo Sombrero, State of Falcon; collected under inter-t...
Pectiniunguis halirrhytus Crabill, 1959
Habitat: A number of records from under beach drift, some record...
Mexico; Florida
Pectiniunguis krausi Shear & Peck, 1992
Habitat: Isla Santa Cruz; juvenile, intertidal. Other sites up t...
Galapagos Islands
Polycricus bredini (Crabill, 1960)
Habitat: Sea Cow Bay, Tortola; Berlese samplings of beach drift ...
West Indies
    = Lestophilus bredini Crabill, 1960 (basionym) 
Schendyla monodi (Brolemann, 1924)
France; Spain
    = Brachyschendyla monodi Brolemann, 1924 (synonymy) 
Schendyla nemorensis (C.L.Koch, 1837)
Habitat: This species is either supralittoral or can be found in...
Europe; North Africa; Nordrhein-Westfalen; Italy...
Schendyla peyerimhoffi Brolemann & Ribaut, 1911
UK; Brittany; Portugal; Morocco; Canary Islands; Ireland...
Schendylops virgingordae (Crabill, 1960)
Habitat: Virgin Gorda: Prickly Pear Island, Berlese samplings of...
Venezuela; Virgin Islands; Martinique
    = Schendylurus virgingordae Crabill, 1960 (synonymy) 
Stenotaenia linearis (C.L.Koch, 1835)
Habitat: A terrestrial species, mostly synanthropic in Britain. ...Habitat: This species is either supralittoral or can be found in...
United Kingdom; Europe; Central Europe; Germany...
    = Clinopodes linearis Attems, 1929 
    = Geophilus linearis C.L.Koch, 1835 
Stigmatogaster dimidiata (Meinert, 1870)
Habitat: This species is either supralittoral or can be found in...
France; Algeria; Spain
    = Stigmatogaster dimidiata angusta Latzel, 1886 
Stigmatogaster subterranea (Shaw, 1789)
United Kingdom; Ireland; North West Europe; Central Europe...
    = Haplophilus subterraneus (Shaw, 1789) (synonymy) 
    = Scolopendra subterranea Shaw, 1789 (basionym) 
Strigamia japonica (Verhoeff, 1935)
Japan; Ryukyu Islands; Kurile Islands; Taiwan; South Korea...
    = Scolioplanes japonicus Verhoeff, 1935 (synonymy) 
Strigamia maritima (Leach, 1817)
Habitat: Littoral zone: in shingle, under rocks, in crevices, et...
European waters (ERMS scope); British Isles...
    = Geophilus maritimus Leach, 1817 (basionym) 
    = Scolioplanes maritimus (Leach, 1817) (synonymy) 
Thindyla littoralis (Kraus, 1954)
    = Litoschendyla littoralis Kraus, 1954 (basionym) 
    = Thindyla pacifica (Chamberlin, 1955) (synonymy) 
Tretecthus uliginosus (von Porat, 1894)
Habitat: Under stones on a sandbank in the Bekolongo River near ...
    = Geophilus uliginosus von Porat, 1894 (basionym) 
Tuoba ashmoleorum Lewis, 1996
Habitat: Littoral zone; among basaltic outcrops, Shelly Beach.
Ascension; South Atlantic
Tuoba japonicus (Fahlander, 1935)
Habitat: Described by Fahlander from Misaki: "im Littoralrand od...
    = Nesogeophilus japonicus Fahlander, 1935 (basionym) 
Tuoba kozuensis (Takakuwa, 1934)
Habitat: Although the original description fom Kozu lacked habit...
Tuoba laticeps (Pocock, 1901)
Habitat: Given as under rocks at high tide level, rocks on sand,...
West Australia; Tasmania
Tuoba littoralis (Takakuwa, 1934)
Habitat: Manazuru, seashore (Shinohara, 1961). Kanto Region, in...
Japan; Japan
    = Nesogeophilus littoralis Takakuwa, 1934 (basionym) 
Tuoba pallida (Jones, 1998)
Habitat: Silver gull nest, Penguin Island, Rockingham and coast ...
West Australia
Tuoba poseidonis (Verhoeff, 1901)
Habitat: littoral zone
European waters (ERMS scope); Mediterranean Sea...
    = Clinopodes poseidonis (Verhoeff, 1901) 
    = Geophilus poseidonis Verhoeff, 1901 (basionym) 
Tuoba sudanensis (Lewis, 1963)
    = Clinopodes poseidonis sudanensis Lewis, 1963 (synonymy) 
    = Tuoba poseidonis sudanensis Lewis, 1963 
Tuoba sydneyensis (Pocock, 1891)
New South Wales; New Caledonia; New Britain; Solomon Archipelago...
    = Algerophilus leptochilus Brolemann, 1931 
    = Geophilus sydneyensis Pocock, 1891 (basionym) 
    = Honuaphilus alohanus Chamberlin, 1926 
    = Tuoba curticeps Chamberlin, 1920 
Tuoba tiosanus (Takakuwa, 1934)
Habitat: Although the original description fom Tyosi lacked habi...
Tuoba xylophaga (Attems, 1903)
Habitat: On dead bird, on seaweed washed ashore, supralittoral s...
New Zealand; New Zealand Exclusive Economic Zone...
    = Geophilus xylophaga Attems, 1903 (basionym) 

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