World’s First Giant Swimming Centipede Discovered

June 29, 2016 | Erica Tennenhouse

Giant centipede, Scolopendra cataracta
Photo credit: Warut Siriwut (CC BY 4.0)

And if that wasn’t enough, it’s also venomous and carnivorous!

Scientists have discovered the first known amphibious centipede. Equally comfortable swimming in water and walking on land, the newly described species — named Scolopendra cataracta, from the Latin for “waterfall” — is also a giant at 7.9 inches (20 centimeters) long.

Like all centipedes, members of this species inject a paralyzing poison into their insect prey.

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But their affinity for the water is unique among centipedes. Entomologist George Beccaloni, who found one specimen, tells National Geographic that when he placed it in a container of water “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.”

Four specimens in total have been collected: two from Laos, one from Thailand, and another found in Vietnam. Thus, the centipede may be restricted to Southeast Asia.

People going for a swim in the region may want to keep a look out for this long-legged critter. Study co-author Gregory Edgecombe says, “All large Scolopendra can deliver a painful bite, the 'fang' of the venom-delivery system being able to pierce our skin.”

Though the pain caused by bites from related giant centipedes can be excruciating, they are not known to cause permanent damage.

full description of the new species was published last month in the journal ZooKeys.

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