Scolopendra subspinipes is a species of centipede. The native range is uncertain. The certain natural range is Meganesia and Indomalaya. The species is also found on virtually all land areas around and within the Indian Ocean, all of Tropical and Subtropical Asia (including Russia), South and Central America, and the Caribbean. However, how much of this range is natural and how much due to human introduction is unclear.
With such a wide geographic range, the species is known by a great many common names including Chinese Red Head, Giant Centipede, Jungle Centipede, Orange Legged Centipede, Red Headed Centipede and Vietnamese Centipede.
This is a large species which can grow up to 10 to 20 cm (3.9 to 7.9 in) in length or even more. It has colour variations. Its body is usually red or reddish brown with yellow or yellow-orange legs. In common with other members of genus Scolopendra, it has 21 body segments with each segment having one pair of legs attached. A pair of modified legs known as forcipules can be found on its head, which is covered by a flat shield and bears a pair of antennae. The forcipules are the major tools used by the centipede to kill its prey or for defense, as they have sharp claws that connect to venom glands. Centipedes breathe through the openings located along sides of their bodies. These openings are either round-shaped or S-shaped. They have simple eyes with poor vision, so they rely much on touch and their chemoreceptors.
Diet and behaviour
This is an aggressive and nervous arthropod which is ready to strike if interfered with and is sensitive to vibrations nearby. It preys primarily on insects or other sizable predatory arthropods (like spiders). Sometimes, mice and small reptiles or amphibians are also on its menu if it is large enough to overpower such vertebrates. It will take almost everything that is not longer than itself. During a fight, the centipede will use its entire body coiling the prey or enemy with its legs firmly attaching to the body of the opponent. Then, it will quickly penetrate its forcipules into the victim for venom injection.
The female lays 50 to 80 eggs which she vigilantly protects until they hatch and the baby centipede molt once. If danger is detected she will wrap around her babies to keep them safe. The centipedes molt once each year, and take three to four years to attain full adult size. They may live for 10 years or more.
Bites from this species are very painful and may cause severe swelling, weakness or fever. Venom constituents include compounds such as serotonin, haemolytic phospholipase A, a cardiotoxic protein and a cytolysin. The Vietnamese Centipede is the only species that is reputed to have a human death attributed to it. The reported fatal case was in Philippines in which the centipede bit a seven-year old girl on her head and she lived for another 29 hours. Despite this, there have been no verifiable cases of human death caused by a centipede.
The number of subspecies of S. subspinipes is unclear and varies between authors. Taxonomic characters have incorporated plastic traits such as colour and sulcus structure and the number and position of spines, producing indistinguishable and intergrading subspecies. A 2012 review found that one former subspecies, S. subspinipes cingulatoides is in fact a distinct species, and that S. subspinipes has no valid subspecies.
- Australian Faunal Directory. "Scolopendra subspinipes Leach, 1815". Department of the Environment and Water Resources. http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/abrs/fauna/details.pl?pstrVol=CHILOPODA;pstrTaxa=172;pstrChecklistMode=2.
- Kronmüller, C. 2012. "Review of the subspecies of Scolopendra subspinipes Leach,. 1815 with the new description of the South Chinese member of the genus" SPiciana 35:1
- "Vietnamese centipede". http://animal-world.com/encyclo/reptiles/centipedes/VietnameseCentipede.php.
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- Julian R. Yates III. "Scolopendra subspinipes". University of Hawaii. http://www.extento.hawaii.edu/kbase/urban/Site/Centip.htm.
- Robert L. Norris (November 19, 2008). "Centipede Envenomation". eMedicine. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/769448-overview. Retrieved October 29, 2010.
- S. P. Bush, B. O. King, R. L. Norris & S. A. Stockwell (2001). "Centipede envenomation". Wilderness & Environmental Medicine 12 (2): 93–99. doi:10.1580/1080-6032(2001)012[0093:CE]2.0.CO;2. PMID 11434497.
- Johnston, T. Harvey, 1943. "Aboriginal names and utilization of the fauna in the Eyrean region" Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia, 67: 2.
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