Temperature-dependent plasticity of segment number in an arthropod species: The centipede Strigamia maritima

Vincent Vedel, Ariel D. Chipman, Michael Akam, Wallace Arthur*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The evolution of arthropod segment number provides us with a paradox, because, whereas there is more than 20-fold variation in this character overall, most classes and orders of arthropods are composed of species that lack any variation in the number of segments. So, what is the origin of the higher-level variation? The centipede order Geophilomorpha is unusual because, with the exception of one of its families, all species exhibit intraspecific variation in segment number. Hence it provides an opportunity to investigate how segment number may change in a microevolutionary context. Here, we show that segment number can be directly altered by an environmental factor (temperature) - this is the first such demonstration for any arthropod. The direction of the effect is such that higher temperature during embryogenesis produces more segments. This potentially explains an intraspecific cline in the species concerned, Strigamia maritima, but it does not explain how such a cline is translated into the parallel interspecific pattern of lower-latitude species having more segments. Given the plastic nature of the intraspecific variation, its link with interspecific differences may lie in selection acting on developmental reaction norms.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)487-492
Number of pages6
JournalEvolution and Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2008


Dive into the research topics of 'Temperature-dependent plasticity of segment number in an arthropod species: The centipede Strigamia maritima'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this