Lurking in some of the world's deepest caves is the aptly named Hades centipede, just discovered in Croatia.
The centipede, whose name refers to the Greek god of the underworld, is a top predator in caves that are located nearly 4,700 feet beneath the Earth's surface.
"When I first saw the animal and its striking appearance, I immediately realized that this is a new, hitherto unnamed ... species," said lead author Pavel Stoev of the National Museum of Natural History, Sofia, in a statement. Stoev noted the centipede is highly adapted to the cave environment.
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The centipede, Geophilus hadesi, was found in three caves at Velebit Mountain. The Lukina jama-Trojama cave system at the site is currently ranked as being the 15th deepest cave in the world. (Krubera Cave in Abkhazia, Georgia, is the world's deepest cave, reaching a depth of 5,610 feet.)
Within its dark, mysterious habitat, the carnivorous Hades centipede hunts for prey such as insects. Note that centipedes are not insects themselves, because they have more than six legs. They are, however, classified as being arthropods, which is the large phylum that also includes insects, as well as spiders and crustaceans.
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The Hades centipede, unlike centipedes that you might find in your garden, has elongated antennae, trunk segments and leg claws. All are adaptations to life at tremendous depths. The centipede also has powerful jaws bearing poison glands. If the centipede grasps prey with its claws, the predator can then inflict a deadly bite.
Yet another new centipede species, named Persephone after the Greek queen of the underworld, was also found in deep caves.
The deep underground world is one of the next frontiers for science exploration, since we know very little about the species that dwell down there. Traveling to such depths is a challenge, making the Hades and Persephone discoveries all the more remarkable.
"This finding comes to prove once again how little we know about the life in caves," Stoev said, "where even in the best prospected areas, one can still find incredible animals."