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New Species of Venomous Centipede Discovered

Imagine being on your honeymoon in Thailand and finding a new species of centipede. If you are entomologist George Beccaloni from the Natural History Museum of London, it was an extraordinary event.

Beccaloni told National Geographic,

Wherever I go in the world, I always turn over rocks beside streams, and that’s where I found this centipede. It was pretty horrific looking: very big with long legs and a horrible dark, greenish-black color.

What surprised him most was that, unlike other centipedes that would have ran on the ground for cover, this one dove into the water to hide underwater beneath a rock. It also had the ability to shed water while on land. He placed the specimen in a jar and brought it back to his lab.

Scolopendra cataracta

Scolopendra cataracta

Oddly enough, this centipede was stored for several years before being identified as being similar to two other unique centipedes discovered by Beccaloni’s colleague, Dr. Gregory Edgecomb. Edgecomb and his student Warut Siriwut had collected the centipedes near waterfalls in Laos. So far, only four have been found, all is Southeast Asia. Their findings were published in Zookeys.

Physical examination and DNA analysis proved that his was a new species of centipede. It was named Scolopendra cataracta, from the Latin word for “waterfall.” It was determined that this was the first known amphibious centipede. It is at home on land and in the water.

Scolopendra cataracta swims like an eel with horizontal undulation motion.

Scolopendra cataracta swims like an eel with horizontal undulation motion.

This centipede can grow to eight inches in length and swims like an eel with undulating movement. It is also a carnivore with a venomous bite that paralyzes its prey, fish and snakes.

Edgecomb says,

A large Scolopendra can deliver a painful bite, the “fang” of the venom delivery system being able to pierce the skin.

The bite can cause pain, swelling, headache and vomiting in humans.

Beccaloni told National Geographic,

Other Scolopendra hunts on land. I would bet this species goes into the water at night to hurt aquatic or amphibious invertebrates.

Just when you thought it was safe to go into the water …