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Amazonian giant centipede

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Amazonian giant centipede
Scientific Classification
Binomial Name

Scolopendra gigantea

The Amazonian giant centipede at a farm in northern Venezuela

The Amazonian giant centipede is a species of centipede known by the scientific name Scolopendra gigantea (also known as the Amazonian centipede). It is best known as the biggest centipede in the world![2] Its home is mainly in the northern regions of South America. [3] Adult Amazonian centipedes can reach enormous lengths of seven to fourteen inches! [4] S. gigantea is in the class Chilopoda which consists of centipedes.(Porch 486) Some of the characteristics of class Chilopoda are: they have simple eyes, antennae and have one pair of fangs. Also, they possess only one pair of legs for each body segment. [5]

Body Design

This Amazonian giant centipede is over eight inches long!

Adults can reach over 35 cm in length. They are a red-maroon color and have about 46 yellowish legs [6] [7] and like the rest of Chilopoda they have one pair of legs per segment and are very quick on their feet (Porch 486).

They have spiny rear legs which offer protection from predators. The first segment of the body has fangs instead of legs. These fangs are called maxillipedes and are used for injecting venom. They also have mandibles which are legs fashioned with a claw on the ends that a poison gland opens up into. These serve the purpose of capturing and killing prey. Despite the fact that they have either simple or no eyes, they have a large brain that is connected to a continuity of ganglia stretching the ventral (under side or abdominal) portion of the centipede. They also have antennae that are very long with a large number of jointed sections. These antennae are attached to the head, which has a flat protective plate covering it. [8]

They have an open circulatory system [9] and their heart is a blood vessel that has chambers and that is located in the dorsal (rear) region of the body. [10] [11] Animals that have open circulatory systems don’t have true hearts but use a blood vessel to pump blood. The blood flows through blood vessels and these vessels open up into cavities, then the blood flows through more blood vessels into larger cavities. These cavities allow the blood that flows into them to actually flood the tissues inside the body, [12] thus supplying the tissues with oxygen. [13] Then, other blood vessels take the blood from the cavities back to the pumping vessel. The only reason this works well is because there are so many holes in the arthropod, which make it easier for oxygen to enrich the blood. [14]

They have spiracles that are used for respiration at these segments: four, six, eight, eleven, thirteen, fifteen, seventeen, and twenty-one. The disadvantage of these spiracles is that they make it easy for this animal to lose water and this is is why dehydration can occur so quickly. [15]

Life Cycle

In the reproduction of the Amazonian Giant Centipede, the female releases pheromones for the purpose of attracting a male. The male then makes a silk pad and releases his sperm onto it. This is called a spermatophore. [16] [17] Then the female takes the sperm and puts the fertilized eggs (usually fifteen to sixty) into little holes in the dirt. She then covers the holes up with dirt, allowing the eggs time to mature. The female plays the parental role somewhat by protecting the eggs and cleaning them to avoid the tragedy of infections due to fungus. After the eggs hatch, the baby centipedes go through multiple molts and each time they molt, they gain legs. [18]


The White Mouse - One of the types of rodents that the Amazonian giant centipede eats for food.

Scolopendra giganteas live in Jamaica, Hispaniola, Trinidad, and in the northwestern countries of South America, including Peru. They are carnivorous along with all other centipedes. They eat rodents, frogs, bats, birds, and lizards. [19] as well as small animals such worms, crickets, and roaches. [20]

These exotic animals do not have a waxy substance on their cuticle and this limits them to humid places. They can be found in leaves, and decomposed wood. [21]

An economic disadvantage of the Amazonian Giant Centipede for the human race is that the venom of Scolopendra giganteas is composed of histamine, and serotonin: a very potent chemical compound, which can leave a terrible swelling wound on a human and can also cause fevers and chills. [22] [23] An economic advantage for the human race is this: Scolopendra gigantea can be used for biological control because it feeds on harmful insects and other animals. [24]

Pet Care

A fish tank would work nicely, although, you would want to put the correct flooring (peat moss and vermiculite) and roofing in.

When keeping these nasty critters as pets (which recently has become popular), you need to be aware that these dangerous exotic creatures can do much damage to the human body. You are strongly advised to NOT handle them. They are quick and might try to attack. But if you do try to handle them, make sure to wear protective equipment because even venom that touches the skin can cause a reaction. [25] Crickets, roaches and mice are good foods for them. But whatever you do, don't put too many in the cage with the centipede or else or else the centipede might die from the overwhelming stress of their food jumping and crawling all over them. [26]

When finding a container for these animals, keep in mind that the container that you will be using should be at least as wide as your centipede is long and it should be at least twice as long as the centipede. The lid or covering needs to be not only snug but made of a material that will not let humidity out. [27] As was stated above, centipedes have spiracles that allow them to breath but also allows dehydration to occur quickly. [28] This means that if you have a metal screen-like covering that allows air to come in from the outside and air from the inside to go out, you are going to need something else to cover the container because you don't want the moisture to get out. To attain and keep humidity and moisture in your tank or container, you will need to spray mist (every other day) into one side of your tank. The temperature should be kept at 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. A water dish is needed; things like soup containers will do a good job performing this task. A larger water container can be used but make sure to put something down inside there to decrease the risk of your centipede drowning. [29]

For a flooring of your tank, you could use a mixture of vermiculite and peat moss or vermiculite and sand or even pebbles and peat moss. [30]

Interesting Facts

In ancient China, the people used to use Scolopendra venom as medicine. They used this venom to treat certain skin disease, serious scars, rheumatism, and kidney stones. [31]

In Africa and Thailand, this arthropod (Phylum arthropoda - They have a segmented body, limbs that are jointed, and usually, they have a chitinous shell that goes through the molting process of that specific animal. This includes the insects, myripods, crustaceans, and insects.) is used in cooking and is thought of as a delicacy. [32]