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article imageFirst amphibious centipede species found, and it's horrible

By Karen Graham     Jun 30, 2016 in Environment
London - Just when we thought it was safe to go back in the water, someone has discovered a freshwater creature we should be worried about encountering. It's a venomous centipede that is as much at home in the water as it is on land.
Gregory Edgecombe of London's Natural History Museum claims he has discovered the world's first amphibious centipede, a monster that can grow up to 7.9 inches or 20 centimeters in length. It belongs to the giant centipede family Scolopendra.
And unless you live in Southeast Asia, you won't be finding this critter in the garden or your bathroom's toilet. The creature has a very painful bite and is a gross-looking dark, greenish-black color, says Edgecombe. Actually, Edgecombe found two specimens of Scolopendra cataracta (from the Latin word for "waterfall").
The creature’s description was published last month in the journal ZooKeys under the title: "A taxonomic review of the centipede genus Scolopendra Linnaeus, 1758 (Scolopendromorpha, Scolopendridae) in mainland Southeast Asia, with description of a new species from Laos."
Colouration pattern during developmental stages of most S. morsitans populations in mainland Southea...
Colouration pattern during developmental stages of most S. morsitans populations in mainland Southeast Asia: A Juvenile stage.
ZooKeys
Actually, the centipede was first discovered in 2001 by London National History Museum entomologist George Beccaloni during his honeymoon in Thailand. While spending a sunny afternoon looking for bugs, he lifted a rock, only to find a large, horrific-looking centipede that immediately scurried off into a nearby stream, plunging underwater to hide beneath a submerged rock.
After some difficult maneuvering, Beccaloni was able to get the bug into a jar of water and brought it back to the museum. There, a number of consultations with experts and skeptical observations followed that showed the centipede was probably not amphibious, so it sat for a number of years on a shelf.
But Beccaloni's colleague, Edgecombe, along with his student in Thailand, Warut Siriwut, were about to announce a new centipede discovery. They had collected two specimens near a waterfall in Laos, and DNA testing showed they had a new species of centipede. They called it Scolopendra cataracta.
Colouration pattern during developmental stages of most S. morsitans populations in mainland Southea...
Colouration pattern during developmental stages of most S. morsitans populations in mainland Southeast Asia: B Adult stage (Colour morph 1).
ZooKeys
Beccaloni and Edgecombe shared their observations and decided the honeymoon centipede and the waterfall centipede were the same species. What is particularly interesting is that this new species is based on only four specimens, the two collected by Edgecombe, Beccaloni's honeymoon specimen, and a specimen collected in Vietnam in 1928 and housed at the Natural History Museum in London, where it had been misidentified.
Beccaloni believes S. cataracta is in its own little ecological world from other centipedes. He says, "Other Scolopendra hunt on land. I would bet this species goes into the water at night to hunt aquatic or amphibious invertebrates.” And like all centipedes, this one is venomous, although it probably wouldn't kill you, he says.
Instead, you would have an agonizingly painful bite, with the pain spreading the entire length of the arm or leg when envenomated. "All large Scolopendra can deliver a painful bite, the "fang" of the venom-delivery system being able to pierce our skin,” says Edgecombe.
While many people would cringe at finding, let alone talking about giant centipedes, Beccaloni and Edgecombe think the new discovery is further proof of the world's many wonders, says National Geographic.
More about amphibious centipede, Southeast asia, Scolopendra, giant centipede, Venomous
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