Sunday, 15 July 2012

Giant Red-headed Centipede

Image: graftedno1 via Flickr
It's Scolopendra heros! Perhaps the most diabolically well dressed centipede in the world!

Image: Ted C. MacRae, Beetles in the Bush
They are also the biggest centipedes in North America, reaching up to 20 cm (8 in) long. You should always be prepared for that kind of thing when dealing with Scolopendra, for there lurk the Giant Centipedes.

Image: snakecollector via Flickr
S. heros lives in southern United States and northern Mexico. Their colouration differs in different parts of their range, but it always retains the bright warning signals of the confidently poisonous. They also retain their aggressive temperament; even when they're not actually Red-headed, they still have a bit of a red head.

Right behind the head is their first body segment from which extend a pair of legs modified into venomous claws for tackling prey or dealing with buffoonery from optimistic predators.

Image: Ted C. MacRae, Beetles in the Bush
They also have simple eyes which seem to be completely useless. These nocturnal beasts don't even use them to tell light from dark.

Far more important are those frenetic antennae.


A centipede on the hunt is a darkly cheerful thing. Antennae wave up and down, the head sways left and right, 40 legs creep, 40 legs crawl, and each has a discernible swagger... until they mercilessly clamp down on their prey and the centipede bends double to administer the lethal injection.

Even lizards and small mammals are not safe from this incorrigible villain. I wonder if this is particularly true of females fattening up before laying her eggs?

Image: A. Jaszlics via Flickr
I love it when their antennae get all curly like that!
Like many other centipedes, the female Giant Red-headed looks after her eggs by wrapping herself around them, offering protection from predators and licking them to kill off any fungus.
She'll stick around when they hatch.

The youngsters have all their legs from the beginning, unlike the House Centipede for example, but they have no colour yet. I doubt mum licks them anymore, though... so embarrassing.

The little ones will soon toughen up and get some colour in their cheeks. It'll take them a while before they gain the stature to really widen the eyes. For now, they're just little devils.

10 comments:

Erik J. Awesome said...

I had the shudders reading this one.

Anything but centipedes, man.

Comment1 said...

Whoops, sorry! I always wondered why phobia and dislike of centipedes was so much less common than that of spiders. I should think that centipedes would fit the role really well. Then I decided it's purely because we spiders so much more often.

TexWisGirl said...

these look a bit fierce - probably not really good neighbors. i guess i'll stick with my scorpions.

Comment1 said...

They look pretty angry, indeed. I reckon they'd beat your scorpions in a fight so your choice is probably a good one!

Crunchy said...

The curled antenna reminds me of a cartoon villain's handlebar mustache!

Comment1 said...

You're right! Very suitable, too.

Chloƫ Langley said...

I thought they looked pretty on pictures but the video is creepy crawly scary! Spiders are angels compared to these!

Comment1 said...

I know what you mean. They're extremely fast and jittery. I can't shake the feeling that they're utterly untrustworthy!

naturegeekgirl said...

So extreemly cool! I just saw my first one out hiking today. What a beautiful and unique creature!

Joseph Jameson-Gould said...

Ooo! Lucky you! I must be so great to bump into something so incredibly vibrant when you're enjoying the outdoors!

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