Early development and segment formation in the centipede, Strigamia maritima (Geophilomorpha)

Ariel D. Chipman*, Wallace Arthur, Michael Akam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Geophilomorph centipedes exhibit a number of unique characteristics that make them of particular developmental and evolutionary interest. Segment numbers in geophilomorphs are higher than in any other centipedes, ranging from 27 to 191. They may be constant within a species, presenting in extreme form the "counting" problem in development, or they may vary - a situation that provides us with the opportunity to study naturally occurring variation in segment numbers. All their segments are generated during embryogenesis, a situation unlike that in the more basal centipede orders, which generate only a fraction of their 15 trunk segments in the embryo and develop the rest postembryonically. Here we provide a foundation for further developmental studies of the Geophilomorpha, building on the one study that has been conducted to date, on the coastal species Strigamia maritima. Development begins with the migration of nuclei to the surface of the egg, which then condense to form an embryonic rudiment of more than 20,000 cells, covering an entire hemisphere. During early development, the embryo can be divided into two distinct areas: a large terminal disc of apparently undifferentiated tissue and the germ-band, which has a clear anteroposterior axis and differentiated segments. The germ-band forms from the anterior of the terminal disc and extends anteriorly as the disc contracts. New segments are formed at the posterior margin of the germ-band. Once the process of segmentation ends, the germ-band folds and sinks into the yolk. We note that the classic description of centipede development, by Heymons more than a century ago, contains a fundamental error in the identification of the axes and hence in the interpretation of early segmentation.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)78-89
Number of pages12
JournalEvolution and Development
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2004
Externally publishedYes


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