, Volume 130, Issue 1, pp 17–29 | Cite as

Pincer-like claws in centipedes (Chilopoda): multiple evolutionary origin of similar form and serial pattern

  • Lucio BonatoEmail author
  • Leandro Drago
  • Alessandro Minelli
Original Paper


In most Chilopoda, the walking legs end in a single-tip claw usually accompanied by short accessory spines. Instead, in all species of three small and only distantly related geophilomorph taxa (Diphyonyx, Neogeophilidae, Eucratonyx), the claws of an anterior set of leg pairs are unusually pincer-like. By integrating different microscopic techniques, including confocal laser scanning microscopy, we found that these modified claws are very similar in form, internal structure, and pattern of variation in shape along the trunk in all three taxa: the claws are distinctly swollen and bent, provided with peculiar bulges, and flanked by a conspicuous additional branch, either cylindrical or flattened, which overreaches the tip of the claw; instead, the internal cuticular features are not modified with respect to the condition in the other centipedes, claiming against the possibility of controlled abduction/adduction between claw and branch. Irrespective of the total number of leg pairs (63–129), the claws change gradually from pincer-like to usual shape invariantly in the range spanning between the 34 and the 45% of the total number of leg pairs. Despite these similarities, pincer-like claws originated independently in the three taxa, and by way of fundamentally different changes, either by the dramatic modification of the already existent anterior accessory spine (Diphyonyx, Neogeophilidae) or by the production of a novel cuticular projection (Eucratonyx). Moreover, their shared pattern of variation along the body was most probably constrained by already operating developmental processes controlling the longitudinal patterning of the trunk.


Chilopoda Geophilomorpha Leg Pretarsus Parallel evolution Evolutionary novelty 



We are grateful to G. Doria (Mus. Civ. Storia Naturale, Genova) and H. Enghoff (Zool. Museum, Univ. Copenhagen) for allowing us to examine specimens from the collections under their care, M. Zapparoli (Dip. Protezione delle Piante, Univ. della Tuscia, Viterbo) for the loan of Diphyonyx specimens, the Laboratory of Electronic Microscopy (Dip. Biologia, Univ. Padova) and especially F. Caicci for assistance with SEM facilities, R. Mazzaro and M. Simonetti for assistence with CLSM, G. Fusco (Dip. Biologia, Univ. Padova) for constructive comments, and A. Devigili (Dip. Biologia, Univ. Padova) for assistance in preparing Fig. 2. The research was supported by the Univ. Padova (CPDA081134/08).

Supplementary material

435_2011_118_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (61 kb)
Specimens examined of representative species with usual claws (PDF 60 kb)

Volume rendering of the cuticle of the pretarsus of an anterior leg of Clinopodes flavidus, derived from a series of CLSM sub-sagittal sections of left pretarsus 17 of a ♂ with 65 leg pairs (MPG 1209 kb)

Volume rendering of the cuticle of the pretarsus of an anterior leg of Diphyonyx conjungens, derived from a series of CLSM sub-sagittal sections of left pretarsus 13 of a ♂ with 77 leg pairs (MPG 1209 kb)

Volume rendering of the cuticle of the pretarsus of an anterior leg of Neogeophilus primus, derived from a series of CLSM sub-sagittal sections of left pretarsus ca. 13 of a ♂ with >57 leg pairs (MPG 1209 kb)

Volume rendering of the cuticle of the pretarsus of an anterior leg of Eucratonyx meinerti, derived from a series of CLSM sub-sagittal sections of left pretarsus 21 of a ♂ with 105 leg pairs (MPG 1209 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lucio Bonato
    • 1
    Email author
  • Leandro Drago
    • 1
  • Alessandro Minelli
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di BiologiaUniversità di PadovaPadovaItaly

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