centipede
The newly discovered Hades centipedeJ Bedek

An international team of scientists have discovered a centipede that dwells some 1,100m below the ground.

The findings, published in ZooKeys, show the Geophilus hadesi – named after Hades, the Greek God of the Underworld – was found by members of the Croatian Biospeleological Society in three caves in Velebit Mts, Croatia.

It is one of only two geophilomorphs – a soil dwelling centipede with upwards of 30 pairs of legs – to be found living exclusively in caves. The other is the Persephone centipede, which was named after the queen of the Underworld in Greek mythology.

Centipedes, which are carnivores that feed on other invertebrates, often spend some of their time in caves but will only reside there on a temporary basis. Because it lives exclusively there, it has developed some unusual traits such as elongated antennae, trunk segments and leg claws. It also has jaws which contain poison glands.

The study's skipper, Pavel Stoev of Pensoft Publishers and National Museum of Natural History, Sofia, said: "When I first saw the animal and its striking appearance, I immediately realised that this is a new, hitherto unnamed and highly adapted to cave environment species. 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."