Scolopendra gigantea, also known by the common names Peruvian giant yellow-leg centipede or the Amazonian giant centipede, is regarded as one of the largest members of the genus Scolopendra. It can reach an overall length of up to 12 inches. S. gigantea can be found in South America and parts of the Caribbean. They are known to be very aggressive and also nervous.
S. gigantea has a body that consists of 21 or 23 well-marked sections and each section has one pair of legs. Its head is covered by a flat shield and a pair of antennae. Additionally, a pair of modified legs that have sharp claws, or forcipules, can also be found on its head. These forcipules are the major weapon used by S. gigantea in subduing its prey or defending itself. Due to its poor vision, they rely on touch and chemoreceptors. They breathe through their round, triangular or S-shaped openings located down the sides of the body which connect to its trachea.
Found primarily in tropical or sub-tropical rainforest, S. gigantea inhabits the northern and western regions of South America along with the islands of Trinidad, Puerto Rico, St. Martin, St. Thomas, U.S.V.I., Jamaica, Grenada, Antigua and Hispanola.
Though nervous and jumpy, S. gigantea is an aggressive carnivore, feeding on almost everything it can take. In addition to feeding on insects or invertebrates, they can make short work of tarantulas, lizards, frogs, snakes, birds, mice and even bats. Their technique for catching bats involves climbing to a cave ceiling and holding prey that is heavier than themselves while only a few legs remain attached to the ceiling.
S. gigantea has a potent venom that consists of acetylcholine, histamine and serotonin (pain mediators), proteases and a cardiodepressant factor. While fatal to most small animals and possessing toxicity for humans, their venom typically will only bring about severe pain, swelling, chills, fever and weakness in humans.
Image Caption: Puerto Rican Giant Centipede, Scolopendra gigantea; Vieques, Puerto Rico. Credit: Katka Nemčoková/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)