Tag Archives: immortal jellyfish

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.

PS 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!

The Immortal Jellyfish: Turritopsis dohrnii

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While most species out there tend to die at some point, there is a specific breed of jellyfish that has developed a way to live forever. Nicknamed the Immortal Jellyfish, Turritopsis dohrnii is capable of escaping death, permanently.

Jellyfish lifespans normally range from a few hours to a couple months, with only one species living up to thirty years. The Immortal Jellyfish, however, can morph back to its infant stage after reproducing, thus recreating its own lifespan. Imagine living a whole life, growing old and gaining loads of memories, only to revert back to a young child after reproducing. The Immortal Jellyfish can continue this process for as long as it is capable of reproducing, forever becoming young again. As far as we understand it, there is nothing else like this located on this planet.

Turritopsis dohrnii

Turritopsis dohrnii.

While these Immortal Jellyfish are still vulnerable to prey and disease, there is no definitive end-point for their lives. There is no grand finale or final destination for them to eventually reach. They simply float on with their lives, literally and metaphorically speaking, continuing from one spot in the ocean to the next.

Biologically, a jellyfish has no mind and no sense of self. It is simply a collective network of nerves, which detect specific stimuli such as the touch of another organism. However, if we were to get philosophical for a moment, what would happen if a jellyfish actually retained memories? Since their biological structure is being rewritten by itself, would it erase all of its experiences and memories? What if this occurred to a human? To add a bit of science fiction flair into the mix, could we utilize this biological anomaly for our own human understanding of the world, for either medical purposes or otherwise?

Immortality has been an often sought after subject for the human race, with nearly every pursuer ending with failure. Could these jellyfish be a small step toward the concept of true immortality, or at least a skewed version where everyone reverts in age?

By the way, these jellyfish are also slowly dominating the ocean.