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Scolopendra sp.jpg
Scolopendra cingulata
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Chilopoda
Order: Scolopendromorpha
Family: Scolopendridae
Genus: Scolopendra
Linnaeus, 1758
Type species
Scolopendra morsitans [1]

Scolopendra (through Latin from Greek σκολόπενδρα, skolopendra) is a species-rich genus of often very large centipedes of the family Scolopendridae.


The genus Scolopendra is represented by many species across the world's tropics and warmer temperate areas, varying considerably in coloration and size. In general, Scolopendra are very large centipedes, with even the smallest species capable of reaching at least 10 cm (3.9 in) at maturity. The largest species found in tropical climates can exceed 30 cm (12 in) and are the largest living centipedes in the world.[2] Scolopendra can deliver a painful bite, injecting venom through their forcipules, which are actually modified legs on the first segment.


Scolopendra are active predators, feeding primarily on insects and other invertebrates. Larger specimens have been observed preying on frogs, tarantulas, lizards, birds, snakes, rodents, and even bats.[3] One southeast Asian species, S. cataracta, is amphibious, and swims and walks underwater.[4][5]


The venom is not medically significant for most species, however bites from the species Scolopendra subspinipes are reported to cause extreme pain and swelling, and have caused one reported fatality.[6] The venom of certain Scolopendra species were found to contain compounds such as serotonin, haemolytic phospholipase, a cardiotoxic protein, and a cytolysin.[7]

Youtube personality and amateur naturalist Coyote Peterson has been bitten by Scolopendra heros, commonly known as the giant desert centipede, and declared the envenomation by it to be more painful and dangerous than any he has ever received from an animal including the tarantula hawk, bullet ant, and even the gila monster.

Taxonomic history[edit]

Scolopendra was one of the genera created by Carl Linnaeus in his 1758 10th edition of Systema Naturae, the starting point for zoological nomenclature. Only two of the species originally assigned to the genus remain so: Scolopendra gigantea and S. morsitans; the latter was chosen to be the type species by Opinion 454 of the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature,[2] overruling a previous designation by Pierre André Latreille, in which he chose Linnaeus' Scolopendra forficata (now Lithobius forficatus) as the type species.[8]


The genus Scolopendra contains these species:[1][9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Scolopendra Linnaeus, 1758". ChiloBase. Università di Padova. Archived from the original on July 22, 2011. Retrieved October 29, 2010.
  2. ^ a b R. M. Shelley & S. B. Kiser (2000). "Neotype designation and a diagnostic account for the centipede, Scolopendra gigantea L. 1758, with an account of S. galapagoensis Bollman 1889 (Chilopoda Scolopendromorpha Scolopendridae)" (PDF). Tropical Zoology. 13 (1): 159–170.
  3. ^ J. Molinari, E. E. Gutiérrez, A. A. de Ascenção, J. M. Nassar, A. Arends & R. J. Márquez (2005). "Predation by giant centipedes, Scolopendra gigantea, on three species of bats in a Venezuelan cave" (PDF). Caribbean Journal of Science. 41 (2): 340–346. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-10-09.
  4. ^ Holmes, O. (1 July 2016). "Giant swimming, venomous centipede discovered by accident in world-first". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  5. ^ Bates, M. (26 June 2016). "'Horrific' First Amphibious Centipede Discovered". National Geographic. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Robert L. Norris (November 19, 2008). "Centipede Envenomation". eMedicine. Retrieved October 29, 2010.
  8. ^ Ralph E. Crabill Jr. (1955). "Proposed use of the plenary powers to designate for the genus "Scolopendra" Linnaeus (Class Myriapoda) a type species in harmony with the accustomed usage". Bulletin of Zoological Nomenclature. 11 (4): 134–136.
  9. ^ a b Siriwut, Warut; Edgecombe, Gregory D.; Sutcharit, Chirasak; Tongkerd, Piyoros; Panha, Somsak (May 17, 2016). "A taxonomic review of the centipede genus Scolopendra Linnaeus, 1758 (Scolopendromorpha, Scolopendridae) in mainland Southeast Asia, with description of a new species from Laos". ZooKeys. 590: 1–124. doi:10.3897/zookeys.590.7950.