Scolopendra subspinipes, is a species of centipede that is found primarily Southeast Asia. Commonly known as the Vietnamese Centipede, it is among the largest centipedes in Asia, often with a length of 8 inches. There are currently 8 sub-species that have been recognized. Scolopendra is an active and aggressive centipede that will prey upon almost everything they can overwhelm.
Despite its common name, the Vietnamese Centipede’s habitat is not solely in Vietnam. Additional habitats can be found in tropical and subtropical regions around the globe. It has been found in Japan and Scolopendra is one of three native centipedes that can be found in Hawaii.
Scolopendra’s color can vary with a body that is usually red or reddish brown with yellow or yellow-orange legs. It has 21 body segments with each segment having a pair of legs attached. Found on its head is a pair of modified legs known as forcipules. Its head, covered with a flat shield, also has a pair of antennae attached.
The forcipules are primarily used to kill its prey and are used generally for defense, as they have sharp claws attached that connect to venom glands.
Like other centipedes, Scolopendra breathes through the openings located along sides of its body. These openings are either round-shaped or S-shaped. They have simple eyes with poor vision, so they rely on touch and their chemoreceptors.
Scolopendra’s diet consists primarily of insects and other often predatory arthropods. Additionally, it preys on mice, small reptiles and amphibians. During its attack, Scolopendra will use its entire body by coiling the prey or enemy with its legs firmly attaching to the body of the opponent. It quickly penetrates its prey with the forcipules injecting it with a potent venom.
Humans can be susceptible to bites from Scolopendra. A bite is very painful and is capable of producing severe swelling, weakness and even fever. Individual components of Scolopendra’s venom consist of serotonin, haemolytic phospholipase A, a cardiotoxic protein and a cytolysin. While there are no official figures for human fatalities from centipede bites, an anecdotal report of a human fatality has been attributed specifically to Scolopendra.
The female Scolopendra will lay 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.
Image Caption: Scolopendra subspinipes. Credit: Matt Reinbold/Wikipedia (CC BY 2.0)