Monday, July 4, 2016

'Horrific' First Amphibious Centipede Discovered

By:  Mary Bates, National Geographic, June 26, 2016

Photo Credit:  Warut Siriwut, via National Geographic.

Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water—look out for giant, swimming centipedes!

Scientists have recently described the world’s first known amphibious centipede. It belongs to a group of giant centipedes called Scolopendra and grows up to 20 centimeters (7.9 inches) long.

Like all centipedes, it is venomous and carnivorous. Thankfully, this new water-loving species appears to live only in Southeast Asia. The creature’s description was published last month in the journal ZooKeys.
Centipede Serendipity

George Beccaloni of the Natural History Museum in London was on his honeymoon in Thailand in 2001. And like any good entomologist, he was looking for bugs.

“Wherever I go in the world, I always turn over rocks beside streams, and that’s where I found this centipede, which was quite a surprise,” says Beccaloni.

“It was pretty horrific-looking: very big with long legs and a horrible dark, greenish-black color,” he says.

When Beccaloni lifted the rock it was hiding under, the centipede immediately escaped into the stream, rather than into the forest. It ran along the stream bed underwater and concealed itself under a rock.

With some difficulty, Beccaloni captured the centipede and later put it in a large container of water. He says it immediately dove to the bottom and swam powerfully like an eel, with horizontal undulations of its body. When he took the centipede out of the container, the water rolled off its body, leaving it totally dry.

Beccaloni brought his specimen back to the Natural History Museum in London and asked a centipede expert about his observations. The expert was skeptical, because Scolopendra are found in dry habitats and no centipedes were known to be amphibious. So the specimen sat in the museum’s collection for years.

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