Velvet worm waiting in ambush

A velvet worm. Perched half a meter off the ground on a broad leaf. It was there waiting in ambush for its prey.

They are predators of small invertebrates using a tube structure near the front of it head to squirt a sticky slime residue to trap their prey.

You would never guess this by their demeanour. It did just this as I went to pick it up for everyone to see. They walk very slowly, with their many pairs of legs moving like a wave just like a centipede or a millipede. And just like their name they feel just like velvet. They are almost weightless as they walk across your skin.

The one that we found was a maroon-brown color but they come in all colors red, blue, and white to name a few. They are nocturnal and live in warm moist climates. Velvets worms form a monophyletic group that has two families. This family is known for being typically viviparous and is distributed around the equator in Central/South America, West Africa and South East Asia.

What is very interesting about this invertebrate is how prehistoric they are and that they have a very strange mating behavior. They breathe through simple diffusion throughout the entire surface of their body and it also is a sensory organ.

Even though Indigo is a reptile and amphibian research trip it doesn’t mean that you can’t pay attention to all the other wonderful critters in the forest.

That same night we found a few Kinkajous, sleeping monkeys and a very loud armadillo. Not to mention numerous snakes, sleeping lizards, frogs and toads.

– Bruce, Research Volunteer December 2013

Velvet Worms. Phyllum – Onychophora. Family – Peripatidae

Published : 25th February 2014

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