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Development of the venom ducts in the centipede Scolopendra: an example of recapitulation


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In contrast to previous claims that (a) there is a law of recapitulation and, conversely, (b) recapitulation never happens, the evolutionary repatterning of development can take many forms, of which recapitulation is one. Here, we add another example to the list of case studies of recapitulation. This example involves the development of the venom claws (forcipules) in the centipede Scolopendra subspinipes mutilans, and in particular the development of the duct through which venom flows from the gland that produces it (proximal) to the opening called the meatus (distal) through which it is injected into prey. Most of the information we present is from early postembryonic stages—these have been neglected in previous work on centipede development. We show that the venom ducts arise from sutures that are invaginations of the cuticle. In S. s. mutilans, the invagination in each forcipule forms into a tubular structure that detaches itself from the exoskeleton and moves toward the center of the forcipule. This is in contrast to extant Scutigera, and also, probably, Scolopendra's extinct Scutigera-like ancestors, where the duct remains attached to the cuticle of throughout development. Thus, S. s. mutilans exhibits a recapitulatory repatterning of development.