Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan

Giant Amazonian centipede, Venezuela

Scolopendra gigantea are the world’s largest centipede and are capable of delivering their prey with a potent venom.

Giant Amazonian centipede, Venezuela

The Giant Amazonian centipede (Scolopendra gigantea) is the world’s largest species of centipede. They have 46 yellow-tinted legs and a red-maroon body, and can reach up to 35cm (13-14 inches) in length - about the size of a man’s forearm. They are found in the damp, dark, moist and hot corners of the Amazon jungle, Trinidad, Jamaica and other tropical countries. They have modified claws called forpicules that curve around their head and deliver a potent venom.

Scolopendra venom is not strong enough to kill an adult human, but in the Philippines one case is known to have killed a seven-year-old girl. A Scolopendra bite is known to cause localised pain and swelling, chills, fever and weakness in human adults. The venom is lethal to Scolopendra prey, and kills mice, birds, snakes, frogs, toads, insects and bats in minutes. Scolopendra are scavengers as well, and a 5-inch centipede was known to have consumed a large chunk of human flesh. Look out for the females: they are even more poisonous than the males.

Scolopendra and bats

The Scolopendra in the Cuevo Del Guano have been observed hanging upside down from the ceiling eating bats. Scientists suspect that the centipedes use their antennae to grope their way through the dark cave, over mounds of writhing beetles, and crawl up the walls to hang from their back pairs of legs, waiting to catch bats right out of the air in mid-flight! With their first 7-8 pairs of legs, the Scolopendra grips the bat tightly and bites it, usually on the back of the neck, injecting their deadly venom. The bat dies in a matter of minutes, and the centipede consumes the flesh within the hour. Scolopendra are known to hunt bats in the daytime as well as at night.