Location: Fougamou, Gabon 1°13`S 10°36`E
September 19, 2010 5:19 am
during a stay in Gabon I took this picture of a centripede. After contact he showed this green fluorescence.
Do you know how it is called?
We had never heard of a Centipede that exhibited bioluminescence, so we hit the search engines in an attempt to answer your questions. Surprisingly, the Orkin website had this information: “The so-called ‘fire centipede’ is a name used to refer to any centipede that exhibits bioluminescence. Often nocturnal, bioluminescent centipedes are uncommon and are not associated with any particular habitat. One fire centipede of repute is widely distributed in tropical Asia and Africa. Known to be the Orphaneus brevilabiatus, the said fire centipede would look something akin to a necklace of precious jewels if one were to come across it on a moonless night. A certain chemical substance secreted by the fire centipede produces this bioluminescence. The light appears to come from the secretions of two luminous patches near the ends of each segment of the centipede’s body. The source of the light is beneath the body of the insect and can be made out through the exterior. Another centipede that glows in the dark is the Geophilus electricus. This fire centipede is long and yellowish in color. Other than centipedes, millipedes also glow. Endemic to the Sierra Nevada of California, the species of millipedes designated as Luminodesmus sequoiae is known to emit light at night. From the moment they hatch, these millipedes glow. The source of their light is embedded in the deeper layers of their integument. Their luminescence is continuous, with no voluntary control.” Our next stop was the Photochemistry and Photobiology page of the Wiley Online Library where the Biochemistry of Centipede Bioluminescense by James Michael Anderson was profiled along with this information: “The centipede (Orphaneous brevilabiatus) secretes a bioluminescent slime. The corrected emission spectrum of this luminescence was found to have maxima at about 510 and 480 nm. The reaction was found to require both a luciferin and luciferase and showed an unusually low pH optimum (4.6). Oxygen was required for the reaction, but oxygen could interact with one of the components allowing for anaerobic light emission.” In an online article entitled Animals that use Bioluminescence by N. David, the author writes: “Some varieties of centipede, known collectively as fire centipedes, are also bioluminescent.” A message board on the Wild About Britain website has an interesting dialog that refers to a Centipede that may be in the genus Geophilus. We were now satisfied that you actually encountered a bioluminescent Centipede which dispelled our first thought that somehow your camera captured a stray light source or that the digital photo file was somehow corrupted. We eventually found a photo of Geophilus carpophagus on the Natural England website where its bioluminescence was mentioned, and it does seem to resemble your specimen, but we are reluctant to provide any genus or species identification for you, preferring instead to have a chilopodist (could that be the name given to a centipede expert?) supply that information instead. We hope the more generic common name Fire Centipede will satisfy your curiosity.
thank you very much for your quick and extensive answer!