Distribution and natural history of Plutonium zwierleini (Chilopoda: Scolopendromorpha) in Sicily (Italy)

F. P. Faraone, L. Vecchioni, J. Goldenberg, G. Giacalone, C. Muscarella, G. Signorello, A. Battista, G. Nicolosi, F. Marrone

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Plutonium zwierleini is a large plutoniumid centipede of great evolutionary interest, occurring with isolated populations along the western Mediterranean area, from Spain to Italy. Due to its rarity and the extreme paucity of available records, P. zwierleini is among the least known Mediterranean chilopods, and scarce information is currently available on its ecology and natural history. Based on an extensive sampling effort carried out in Sicily between 2022 and 2023, we here provide additional occurrence localities for the species across Sicily, and new insights into its ecology. Overall, 29 novel Sicilian records of P. zwierleini, scattered across 21 localities, were collected thus increasing its known Sicilian distribution area by 117%, and the number of localities by 110%. The species was found in a wide range of habitats such as open areas, woods, buildings, and caves, characterizing Plutonium zwierleini as a habitat generalist, whose fine ecological preferenda need to be further explored. Moreover, to explore the diet and behaviour of the species, some specimens were kept in captivity. The captive individuals fed mostly on dead or poorly mobile soft-bodied prey and inert food, without ever displaying predatory behaviour; this suggests that, contrarily to what is currently assumed, P. zwierleini might be a scavenger rather than a predator. The potential distribution of Plutonium zwierleini in Sicily was inferred based on georeferenced occurrence records and climatic variables. The implemented MaxEnt model forecasts the possible occurrence of P. zwierleini on the whole island, with the single exception of its south-easternmost part, possibly due to the local pattern of precipitation seasonality. We hope that the present work might pave the way for further surveys aimed at a better understanding of the ecology of Plutonium zwierleini and the collection of new data in the other regions inhabited by this secretive species.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)305-317
    Number of pages13
    JournalEuropean Zoological Journal
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2024

    Subject classification (UKÄ)

    • Ecology

    Free keywords

    • Centipede
    • cryptozoans
    • feeding behavior
    • soil fauna
    • species distribution model


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