A team of researchers were able to map centipede genome for the first time and found out that a centipede has about 7,000 fewer genes than humans at around 15,000. The scientists believe the centipedes have lost some genes such as the genes controlling circadian rhythms or the ones responsible of encoding light receptors.
In a study published in the PLOS Biology journal, researchers said that out the myriapod group within arthropods, which also include centipedes, is the only one in which no genome had been sequenced until now. One of the scientists engaged in the study, Frank Jiggins, from genetics department at the University of Cambridge said:
“With genomes in hand from each of the four classes of living arthropod, we can now begin to build a picture of the genetic make-up of their common ancestor. For example, by comparing flies and mosquitoes with centipedes, we have shown that the innate immune systems of insects are much older than previously appreciated.”
The scientists that were able to map centipede genome for the first time sequenced the genome of a northern European centipede known as “Strigamia maritima”. They discovered that the centipede’s genome is more preserved than the genome of any other arthropods, which suggests that the centipede evolved a lot slower than other members from their common ancestor. Centipedes do not have a hundred legs, in spite of their name. The Strigamia maritima centipede lives in habitats around coasts and can have 41 to 51 pairs of legs. The number of leg pairs on the strigamia maritime centipede is always odd.
The scientists who managed to map centipede genome said the arthropods lost the genes responsible of light receptors, as well as the genes controlling the circadian rhythm, also known as body clock.
Another scientist involved in the research, Michael Akam from the University of Cambridge said in a statement:
“Strigamia live underground and have no eyes, so it is not surprising that many of the genes for light receptors are missing, but they behave as if they are hiding from the light. They must have some alternative way of detecting when they are exposed,”