Scolopendra subspinipes

Image Caption: Scolopendra subspinipes. Credit: Matt Reinbold / Wikipedia (CC BY 2.0)

Scolopendra subspinipes is a species of centipede whose native range and origin are unknown. Its current range includes areas of Indomalaya and Manganesia, as well as most tropical and subtropical areas of Asia, the Caribbean, most areas of land within the Indian Ocean, Central America and South America. Although this species does occur in these areas, it is unclear whether it occurs there naturally or by introduction. It has many common names depending upon its location including the jungle centipede, giant centipede, orange-legged centipede, and the Chinese red head, among other names. This species once held one recognized subspecies, known as S. subspinipes cingulatoides, but this is now classified as a distinct species.

Scolopendra subspinipes can reach an average body length between 3.9 and 7.9 inches, making it one of the largest species in the family Scolopendridae. It is typically reddish in color, but can vary to brownish red or other colors. It has 21 distinctly marked segments that each hold on pair of legs. As is typical to centipede species, this centipede has a set of sharp forcipules located on its head. Unlike some centipedes, this species does not have good eyesight and depends on its antennae to move about or locate prey.

Scolopendra subspinipes is flighty and will not hesitate to defend itself if it feels threatened. Its diet consists mainly of insects and arthropods, but will also consume small mice, reptiles, and amphibians if these are small enough to catch. It uses its powerful legs to lock in its prey and then injects it with toxic venom before eating it. Females lay between fifty and eighty eggs, which she will protect aggressively. If the babies are threatened, the mother will wrap her body around them until they are safe again. Adult size is not reached until three to four years of age, after a series of moltings. Individuals can live for up to ten years.

The venom of Scolopendra subspinipes is toxic and can cause severe pain, fever, swelling, and weakness. Although other centipede species are not known to be particularly dangerous to humans, this species is the only one known to have caused the death of a human. This incident occurred in the Philippines, after a seven-year-old girl was bitten on the head. This species was once eaten by the aboriginal people of Australia, and is now a popular pet among arthropod enthusiasts.