26
$\begingroup$

I am in the "drawing board" stage of creating fantasy mounts for my world and I was wondering how useful would a giant centipede-like creature be as a mount ?

I am personally operating under the assumption that while the centipede-like body-plan would be quite slow and creepy looking, it could potentially make for a very stable and safe means of transportation, suitable to all types of terrain.

I envision a giant and very powerful mount capable of carrying multiple people or goods, kind of like a (much) slower version of the bus.

Also, though slightly unrelated to my question, what would be a good justification for the existence of such a creature, I assume that very harsh terrain might be a good enough excuse.

enter image description here

$\endgroup$
16
  • 20
    $\begingroup$ Do they need shoes like horses? "I'm spending most of next week re-shoeing Fluffy"" $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Jun 28 '20 at 20:47
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It's a fine idea. But man. You have to either change a lot of the appearance of the creature or condition humans not to be totally freaked out by a huge disgusting bug. Maybe cover them in a sort of light materials that hides most of their features. Also we are breading them for a while so think dogs and horses so you can change different aspects of their bodies. $\endgroup$
    – Seallussus
    Jun 28 '20 at 20:54
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The issue with most giant bugs is that their body plan is designed for small ones. Their physique can't easily be supersized as their muscle and carapace can't withstand the increased weight and they would crush themselves. That aside, it is said the amount of oxygen available is directly linked to the size if insects. The more oxygen, the bigger the bugs. $\endgroup$
    – Plutian
    Jun 28 '20 at 21:19
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Horses need shoes because their hooves are evolved to carry the weight of a horse, not a horse, a rider, and all the tack. So, yes, probably our centipede would need shoes without hand-waving about more sturdy feet. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Jun 28 '20 at 21:56
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Well, it worked for Paul Atreides $\endgroup$
    – Douwe
    Jun 29 '20 at 14:29
40
$\begingroup$

A centipede would make an awesome, fearsome fantasy mount!

This video does a pretty good, close up job of extolling the virtues of the common house centipede.

Pros:

  • they're fast. Really fast! much faster than ants or even jumping spiders
  • they're highly manoeuverable! great at turning corners with lightning speed
  • they're a comfortable ride! if you watch a centipede in motion, its gait is essentially level
  • did I mention they're really fast?
  • they're savage warriors in their own right: centipedes are natural born hunters with venomous pincers, specialised grabbing limbs and even specialised multi-segmented lasso limbs. The competition doesn't stand a chance!
  • terrain is meaningless to a centipede: walls, boulders, dirt, hard surfaces; no worries there! Some centipedes don't do at all well in water and easily drown. Others take to water like a ... well, like submarine centipede! Like this fellow!
  • The usual tactic of attacking a large mount, such as an oliphant or AT-AT, is to go for the legs. This will be complicated by the large number of legs on a centipede.
  • they're creepy as hell!

Cons:

  • this is a fantasy world: there are no cons!

Justification:

  • entomological cool factor: what else do you need, really?
$\endgroup$
16
  • 20
    $\begingroup$ @Theexurbmm10a I feel a lot of things. Comforted is not one of them $\endgroup$
    – Christian
    Jun 28 '20 at 20:04
  • 11
    $\begingroup$ Just don't forget the square-cube law. Real life centipedes are fast for their sizes, but if scaled up by a factor of 500, they won't be 500 times faster. Also, they might be too squishy to be able to carry enough weight. Of course, it's fantasy, but unless they are completely magical creatures, they have to abide the laws of physics. Biologically they probably won't have anything to do with real life centipedes, internally they might be vertebrates (this helps them be stable at such sizes, otherwise they might collapse under their own weight) and only externally will they resemble centipedes. $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Jun 29 '20 at 7:03
  • 14
    $\begingroup$ Another Pro: The usual tactic to attack a large mount (elephant, AT-AT, etc.) is to go for the legs. That probably takes a bit longer with centipedes. $\endgroup$
    – kapex
    Jun 29 '20 at 8:44
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ This is the kind of answer I come to this site for. $\endgroup$ Jun 29 '20 at 11:42
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ "Real centipedes don't do at all well in water" - Oh really?? $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Jun 29 '20 at 12:06
15
$\begingroup$

While all the pros have been well pointed out by @elemtilas answer, and most of the physics based ones can be hand waived by magic. I think there are a couple of cons worth considering just to add some flavour:

  • Food: Centipedes are carnivorous, so a giant centipede would require large quantities of meat. However they are not picky, so you can use your enemies as a supplement.

  • Behaviour: Centipedes are not territorial, but they are not generally gregarious. Not sure if you can keep a lot of them together without them starting to fight each other. Probably solvable through breeding and taming. Also other mounts, livestock and most humans would not go anywhere near them. The fear factor is cool and useful, but not always practical.

  • Water regulation: Centipedes would dehydrate fast in dry climates,just don't use them in a desert environment.

  • Stabling: Centipedes like to burrow and live in tunnel, so special stabling arrangements are needed. A centipede tunnel, cave or pit would be a cool setting!

  • Time of day: Centipedes are mostly nocturnal, but this should be solvable through breeding and taming. In alternative, strike at night!

I think you picked a very cool mount, go for it!

$\endgroup$
2
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I mean, for it to grow that big water and other issues would've already been solved to simply allow it to exist, but yes, if centipedes can go giant and equally as agile as their little cousins, we might have a problem regarding new predators at the top of the food chain. $\endgroup$ Jun 29 '20 at 11:47
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Most of these "disadvantages" would make them a great mount for a nocturnal/cave dwelling race like orks or drow. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Jun 29 '20 at 22:12
9
$\begingroup$

Awesome idea, and others have answers for your main question.

(It does however immediately bring to mind the Worm Riders of Dune, though these are giant worms, not centipedes.)

But you also ask this:

Also, though slightly unrelated to my question, what would be a good justification for the existence of such a creature, I assume that very harsh terrain might be a good enough excuse.

You might want to read this wikipedia page on megafauna:

An excerpt:

Analysis of the variation of maximum body size over the last 40 Ma suggests that decreasing temperature and increasing continental land area are associated with increasing maximum body size. The former correlation would be consistent with Bergmann's rule,[15] and might be related to the thermoregulatory advantage of large body mass in cool climates,[11] better ability of larger organisms to cope with seasonality in food supply,[15] or other factors;[15] the latter correlation could be explained in terms of range and resource limitations.[11] However, the two parameters are interrelated (due to sea level drops accompanying increased glaciation), making the driver of the trends in maximum size more difficult to identify.[11]

It's amazing how many over-sized versions of commonly known animals have existed at one point in earths history. For your world I would suggest you simply adapt some of the reasons given for the existence of real life megafauna, there's a lot written about this subject.

$\endgroup$
7
$\begingroup$

Well, first let's go with how it could appear: funny enough, a creature similar to what you wish, although much smaller, has already walked on our planet. Arthropleura is an extinct species of arthropod that could grow to lengths over 2 meters long. This giant myriapod most likely had an herbivorous diet, and it's ability to grow so large is assumed to be related to the high oxygen concentration in the air and the high humidity of its habitat, which prevented it from dehydrating, as well as a lack of predators, evidenced by its relatively thin exoskeleton.

Now, we need to create the suitable conditions for a creature like arthropleura, but bigger and preferably faster. First things first: oxygen. The problems regarding giant arthropods in this site might be second only to the ones regarding the existence of dragons. Their trachea severely limit their ability to obtain enough oxygen at large sizes, their body plan isn't suitable for carrying large weights, their exoskeletons become too heavy, and many others. By this we can already see some issues with our giant centipede coming to life as just an enlarged centipede. First things first, this thing will need a fuel source, preferably one that doesn't need to be at concentrations that could kill everything else. In here magic/mana might be a good substitute, as its usually high concentrations in the environment could likely be used to fuel the creature's body in place of only oxygen (something that is usually used to explain why we have enormous creatures that seem as active as a cat when you want to sleep: mana is being used in addition to oxygen to fuel their bodies, leaving heat as the main issue that's usually ignored). Changing the respiratory system to be something closer to lungs (as well as solving their problems regarding susceptibility to dehydration) also seems like a better strategy.

Second, the body plan: we'll need to alter its body a bit so that unlike a giant arthropod, this thing can survive growing up to large sizes. At this point, something of a hybrid between an arthropod and a vertebrate seems like the best option, and this question's answer seems to agree with me in a way. Rather than a straight up arthropod, your creature could be the world's strangest ""vertebrate"", working with a sort of endoskeleton to allow better weight bearing capacity, as well as an exoskeleton as seen in echinoderms, which will grow with the animal and eradicate the issues related with the risky molting processes, which can fail and leaves the animal temporarily defenseless. The legs too would likely be slightly angled In order to go predominantly under the body, as to better support weight (however with many legs and an endoskeleton, I think we can still have legs that come somewhat out of the sides of the body). Changing the exoskeleton structure might also be a good strategy, maybe using keratin instead of chitin.

Lastly, the environment: putting apart how unlikely it would be for all of those changes to evolve naturally on an arthropod from earth, your centipede creature will need an environment with little competition, if you want it to be carnivorous, or little problems regarding predators, if you want it to be herbivorous (/lame). In either case, the pressures will likely be similar to what we saw with dinosaurs: prey grows bigger, predators either group up or become bigger too (by become I mean the trait is selected, not that they try very hard to grow like Lammark would likely say), so either your centipede creature saw the need to grow to avoid predation, or it's usual prey started growing up, leaving it to follow the same path. Another approach to the carnivorous growth could be something like we saw with birds and pterosaurs, in which a new predator appeared and outcompeted it with its usual prey, selecting the larger centipedes which could hunt larger prey. Either way, we ended up with 2 potential scenarios:

1- an environment in which the centipedes grew to massive sizes, and much like some of our world's sauropods, they lack predators capable of hunting them once they reach adulthood (this creature is closer to modern millipedes in behavior).

2- an environment in which few creatures are safe, as the giant centipede, with its multiple powerful limbs capable of effortless pursuit through harsh terrain, as well as some tree climbing capabilities due to its sheer size and strength can hunt most of the creatures in its environment, using its modified forcipules and powerful venom to quickly dispatch prey. Thank to its various adaptations that allowed it to grow to large sizes without making it into a slow giant, it was able to become a top nocturnal predator in its environment, usually hunting alone and being relatively aggressive towards other members of its species (this creature is likely closer to the scolopendra genus of centipedes in terms of behavior and overall hunting).

In scenario 1, you'll likely have a mount that is rather slow, as it didn't need to outrun any predators due to its size. It will likely be as docile as a modern millipede and it's herbivorous diet shouldn't pose problems and it shouldn't be a problem regarding transportation and carrying goods.

In scenario 2, you'll have a mount that works as a natural bandit repellent. It will likely be a naturally agressive mount (more than a lion resting in the sun but likely not as hateful as a scolopendra chasing you). It's diet will be a bit of a problem, since it will require a good amount of meat to be kept in a calmer state (scolopendra already prey on mammals so likely you won't need to feed giant bugs to your centipede). The use of a special muzzle will likely be advised, as well as dealing with the antennae (centipedes rely a lot on smelling to find prey, rather than eyesight, an I'm assuming your centipede has s similar strategy). It will most likely be strong enough to transport people and goods without issues and at a faster pace than its herbivorous counterpart, with its aggression, diet and nocturnal nature likely being your main issues, which could be slightly solved by selective breeding centipedes which are more docile and active during daytime (you likely don't want to trap 3 of these in a barn at night without restraining them until you've successfully selected these traits, or you might wake up to find only 1 left).

So summing up a centipede mount will likely be very useful, with its ability to cross various terrain at decently fast speeds, as well as how some species of centipede can climb structures, speed may vary depending on whether the animal was selected just to be big or fast as well, and their overall behavior and levels of aggression will most likely depend on their diet and lifestyle.

$\endgroup$
1
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ How are you the only one to mention the real-world giant centipede? This is heresy. $\endgroup$
    – XenoDwarf
    Sep 17 '20 at 1:35
3
$\begingroup$

This is fantasy, so lets go with (mainly) advantages.

  • As noted by others, high speed and a very smooth ride

  • Large number of claws means it can latch on to any surface and cross gaps. (I know physics, but this is fantasy). So you can ride it right off a cliff and down the cliff face - or across the ditch and over the castle walls and the defenders are still goggling when your mount bites their head off

  • not necessarily too bright, so they may require close control at all times. Make sure it is very well tethered when not in use

  • can get through extremely narrow cracks and crevices -- obviously not while rider is mounted, so watch out when your mount decides to take a route that could give you a headache

  • high rate of reproduction means that, unlike horses, you could raise vast fleets of them very rapidly

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

A centipede, or other long multilegged creature, would be quite useful at transporting many people or lots of goods at once, as they would effectively be a camel train with a single body and head. They could also be easy to lead and direct, as their antennae, if they were made less flexible, could be pulled on to simulate an obstacle, making them turn

$\endgroup$

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .