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Say hello to the centipede from hell

The newly discovered Hades centipede. (J. Bedek)

Scientists have just discovered the deepest-ever-dwelling species of centipede. Like all centipedes, it's kinda gross. But it has a cool name: Geophilus hadesi, after Hades, the god of the underworld. The new species is described in a ZooKeys paper published Tuesday.

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This hellion lives in Croatian caves, and was found more than 3,500 feet deep.

"When I first saw the animal and its striking appearance, I immediately realized that this is a new, hitherto unnamed and highly adapted to cave environment species," lead study author Pavel Stoev of the National Museum of Natural History, Sofia, said in a statement. "This finding comes to prove once again how little we know about the life in caves, where even in the best prospected areas, one can still find incredible animals."

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Centipedes often dwell in caves, but members of this particular group (Geophilus) rarely do. In fact, hadesi is one of just two members of its genus that spend their entire lives in a cave. The other, Geophilus persephones, was described in 1999 and named for Persephone, the wife of Hades, which inspired the new centipede's name.

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Because of its unique proclivity for caves, hadesi has some unusual features. The inch-long centipede with 33 pairs of legs has unusually long antennae — some five times longer than its head — as well as long leg claws. It also has strong jaws with poison glands on them, and fierce claws for grabbing its prey. The researchers believe that the cave systems in the area are rich with strange insect life, but that hadesi is one of the top predators.

There are probably creepy crawlies much stranger looking than hadesi dwelling in these Croatian caves -- some of the deepest in the world -- but intrepid researchers will have to do a lot more spelunking to spot them.

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