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Huge bird-eating centipedes have been found in Australia

The centipedes that live on Australia’s Phillip Island can prey on up to 3,700 black-winged chicks each year. However, the researchers also found in their recently published study that black-winged stormbirds and centipedes maintain a perfectly normal relationship between predator and prey. By capturing vertebrates, water centipedes trap so-called nutrients that seabirds bring from the ocean and distribute on the island.

Diet of various centipedes

At first glance, giant bird-eating centipedes may look like they came out of a science fiction movie, but they’re not just out there in our imaginations. Centipede on Little Phillip Island in the Norfolk Archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean (Cormocephalus coynei) can kill and consume up to 3,700 seabirds annually. And it’s totally normal: An important feature of this unique organism, which cannot be found anywhere else, is that it consumes an unusually high percentage of vertebrates, including seabirds as a great favorite.Despite being predators of the sea, seabirds are usually at the top of the food chain, but in America the world of nature A new study published in a scientific journal shows that this is not always the case.

The diet of Phillip Island centipedes (Cormocephalus coynei) is unusually high in vertebrates, including seabird chicks.Source: Daniel Terrington

We show the important role that large predatory arthropods can play in the food web of island ecosystems. Said Luke Halpin, an ecologist at Monash University Watchman Electronic portal. “The Phillip Island centipede achieves this through its very varied diet.

Night raised a well-armed predator

This centipede can be about 30.5 inches long. Armed with powerful venom, it hides in two tweezers-like appendages, and this flag “ForsipolaWhich he uses to paralyze his prey. His body is protected by armor-like plates lining each of the many sections that make up his length.

On warm, humid nights, these nocturnal arthropods hunt meticulously in the thick-leaved abyss and are able to navigate the jungle soil in a maze of footprints left by seabirds. Rowan Mott, a Monash University biologist, explained. – Makes your centipede hunting a success with its two antennas which are highly sensitive when searching for its prey.

This centipede unexpectedly hunts a wide variety of prey, from crickets to seabirds, geckos, and pelts. Sometimes he even catches fish, such as black noddi (Min Anous) scales caught by a seabird, which are snatched during nesting birds.

Researchers have made a frightening discovery

Shortly after scientists began their research into the environment of seabirds at Phillip Island Cave, they discovered that the black-winged stormbird (Petrodroma negripenes) Chicks often fall prey to the Phillip Island craft.

black-winged storm chickSource: Trudy Chatwin

We knew this needed more investigation, so we set out to demystify the eating habits of large arthropods.Rohan Clark, director of the Monash Drone Discovery Platform and environmental researcher at Monash University noted. “To find out what these insects eat, we studied their nocturnal feeding activities while recording the types of prey they killed.

He added that they also monitored the daily lives of the chicks in their nest every few days for months.

Experts are eventually starting to see extinction patterns among the constantly killed chicks.

He could even witness a centipede attack and eat one of his chicks.

From the predation rates they observed, scientists estimated that Phillip Islanders could kill and eat 2,109–3724 chicks annually.

According to the study, it seems that the black-winged stormbirds (of which there are up to 19,000 breeding pairs on the island) are still trying to resist this type of prey.

Are they filling an environmental gap?

Researchers have found that black-winged birds and centipedes maintain a perfectly natural relationship between predator and prey. By capturing vertebrates, water centipedes trap so-called nutrients that seabirds bring from the ocean and distribute on the island.

Phillip Island’s centipede appetite may be key to restoring the island’s ecosystemSource: Luke Halpin

In a sense, it has replaced the predatory mammals that do not live on the islandLuke Halpin confirmed. “But it’s also possible that these centipedes are filling some kind of ecological divide.

Until a few decades ago, Phillip Island centipedes were very rare in the region. It was not officially described as an independent species until 1984. Even in a 1980 survey, researchers found only a few individuals.The scarcity of the species is most likely due to the severely degraded habitat caused by pigs, goats and rabbits. Ultimately, removing these invasive pests allowed the black-winged stormbirds to proliferate.

Since then, their numbers have literally “exploded”, and today these birds are considered the most common animal of the 13 species of seabirds that breed on Phillip Island.

They are restoring the island’s ecosystem

The black-winged stormbirds provide a high-quality food source for Phillip Island’s centipedes, and thus likely helped restore the centenarian population. From the deposits of ancient bones in the soil, scientists have concluded that before the arrival of the black-winged birds, the island was also inhabited by many other small species of cave-nesting seabirds.

It is possible that the centipede also preyed on these seabirds.

Thanks to the conservation efforts of Norfolk Island National Park, the island’s forest-endemic species, including this centipede, and the critically endangered Phillip Island hibiscus (hibiscus hibiscus) can also be reborn.
Experts say the stamina and healthy appetites of the “nutrient-mediated” insects could be key to restoring the island’s ecosystem. However, more research is needed to allow scientists to understand the complex relationships of this highly diverse food chain.

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