Building steps: a morphological investigation of leg regeneration and development in post-embryonic stages of Scutigera coleoptrata (Chilopoda)


Iulia Barutia

MSc Student
Advisors: Thomas Schwaha, Andy Sombke
Unit for Integrative Zoology, Department of Evolutionary Biology, University of Vienna


Many arthropod species have the ability of regenerating appendages. This feature is often associated with anamorphic development and might sometimes be restricted only to larval or nymphal stages. In most cases, the regeneration occurs progressively, over multiple molting cycles and rarely concludes in a fully regenerated limb. However, some arthropods are capable of so called “explosive regeneration”. This term came into use when the regeneration ability of the house centipede Scutigera coleoptrata was documented for the first time in the early 20th century. These centipedes were shown to fully regenerate all 30 legs within one adult molting cycle. When in danger, S. coleoptrata adults can quickly and without further injury autotomize their long, slender legs in order to escape. The legs quickly regrow, and they emerge fully developed and ready to use after the next molt. What is more, even their anamorphic larvae, which are developing one to two leg bearing segments per molting cycle, are able to appendotomize their existing legs in the same way and replace them after the next molt. The main objective is to reveal how this escape artist renews its limbs at such an astonishing rate as an adult, as well as in the anamorphic stages. The cornerstone for this is the thorough anatomical analysis of the growing appendages at relevant stages throughout the regeneration process, as well as during the anamorphic development. While this phenomenon differs from most documentations of regeneration in arthropods, our anatomical investigation so far provides a valuable insight into the oddities of this process. Subsequently, a transcriptomic and molecular approach could also be crucial for finding out how regeneration starts and what determines the formation of the limbs, while also shedding more light on our general understanding of arthropod regeneration and development.