Scolopendra gigantea: The Giant Centipede

Since the world of Halloween costumes and horror movies is so slow today, we’re turning to Mother Nature for a quick thrill. Similar to the mind-blowing information of the Immortal Jellyfish, we now present you with another of nature’s wild creatures: Scolopendra gigantea.

Scolopendra gigantea

Let’s do it:

Imagine yourself trudging through the darkness of a South American cave. Bats swoop back and forth from the ceiling, their echolocation screeches bouncing off stone walls. Beneath every step squirms a carpet of black beetles, thousands of them climbing over each other, in search of dropped food.

A red snake-like creature, about a foot long, slinks out of a crevice and up the cavern wall. Hundreds of little legs keep it attached to the cold stone, and when it reaches the ceiling, it hangs like a limp length of rope, legs squirming in the air. Its antennae scan the environment for vibrations. And the first bat unlucky enough to swoop by, that hanging rope comes to life as if it were made of lightening – snatches the bat right out of the air, pumps it full of poison, and devours the bat’s flesh over the next two to three hours.

This creature is Scolopendra gigantea, the largest centipede currently alive, measuring approximately 10 inches long, though it is known to exceed 12 inches. It is also known as the Peruvian giant yellowleg centipede and Amazonian giant centipede.

Here’s a video of Scolopendra gigantea:

The Caribbean Journal of Science published a study on Scolopendra gigantea and its effects on bat populations, titled Predation by Giant Centipedes, Scolopendra gigantea, on Three Species of Bats in a Venezuelan Cave. If you have some time and want to creep yourself out, give the study a read. For the purpose of this article, though, we’ll look only at what they said about the centipede’s eating habits:

During the 30 min of observations, the centipede fed without interruption, carving a wound in the bat’s lower abdomen. The bat also had a second and smaller wound on the upper back, which probably represented the initial bite of the centipede. The wings were lax, the exposed flesh was bloodstained, and the pelage (coat) was clean.

The creature delivers its venom via modified pincer-like appendages. Although not fatal to humans, the toxic venom can cause some nasty symptoms, including severe swelling, chills, fever, weakness, and, in some cases, necrosis (premature death of skin cells). Similar to other creatures who use toxic venom to catch prey (snakes, spiders, etc.), Scolopendra gigantea consumes nearly every bit of a caught meal, which can take up to three hours, depending on the body size of the prey.

Scolopendra

So, if you find yourself within a South American cave and see something dangling from the ceiling, don’t grab onto it. Your body will be pumped full of poison and you will fall onto a carpet of beetles.

PSĀ Euphoberia, an extinct genus of myriapod, was about four times as large as Scolopendra gigantea. Most experts believe Euphoberia is a primitive centipede. Imagine that: a 4-foot centipede. Horrifying!

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