Scolopendra gigantea

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Scolopendra gigantea
Temporal range: Pleistocene-recent[1]
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Myriapoda
Class: Chilopoda
Order: Scolopendromorpha
Family: Scolopendridae
Genus: Scolopendra
S. gigantea
Binomial name
Scolopendra gigantea
Trinidad, West Indies

Scolopendra gigantea, also known as the Peruvian giant yellow-leg centipede or Amazonian giant centipede, is a centipede in the genus Scolopendra. It is the largest centipede species in the world, with a length exceeding 30 centimetres (12 in).[2] Specimens may have 21 or 23 segments.[3] It is found in various places throughout South America and the extreme south Caribbean, where it preys on a wide variety of animals, including other sizable arthropods, amphibians, mammals and reptiles.[4]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

It is naturally found in northern South America. Countries from which verified museum specimens have been collected include Aruba, Brazil, Curaçao, Colombia, Venezuela (including Margarita Island) and Trinidad.[2] Records from Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Hispaniola (both Haiti and the Dominican Republic), Mexico, Puerto Rico and Honduras are assumed to be accidental introductions or labelling errors.[2]

Scolopendra gigantea can be found in tropical or sub-tropical rainforest and tropical dry forest, in dark, moist places such as in leaf litter or under rocks.[3]

Behavior and diet[edit]

It is a carnivore that feeds on any other animal it can overpower and kill. It is capable of overpowering not only other invertebrates such as large insects, worms, snails, spiders, millipedes, scorpions, and even tarantulas, but also small vertebrates including small lizards, frogs (up to 95 millimetres (3+34 in) long), snakes (up to 25 centimetres (10 in) long), sparrow-sized birds, mice, and bats.[4][5] Large individuals of S. gigantea have been known to employ unique strategies to catch bats with muscular strength. They climb cave ceilings and hold or manipulate their heavier prey with only a few legs attached to the ceiling.[4] Natural predators to the giant centipedes include large birds and arthropod-hunting mammals, including coati, kinkajou, and opossum.


At least one human death has been attributed to the venom of S. gigantea. In 2014, a four-year-old child in Venezuela died after being bitten by a giant centipede which was hidden inside an open soda can. Researchers at Universidad de Oriente later confirmed the specimen to be S. gigantea.[6]


  1. ^ "Fossilworks: Scolopendra".
  2. ^ a b c 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)". Tropical Zoology. 13 (1): 159–170. doi:10.1080/03946975.2000.10531129. S2CID 83560131.PDF: Tandof online
  3. ^ a b Stewert, Amy (2011). Wicked Bugs. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. p. 145. ISBN 978-1-56512-960-3.
  4. ^ a b c 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.
  5. ^ Meshew, Catherine. "Scolopendra gigantea". Animal Diversity Web. Archived from the original on 20 Mar 2023. Retrieved 2023-06-03.
  6. ^ Aguilera, María; Díaz, Gienah (13 November 2014). "Niño de 4 años murió tras ser picado por ciempiés gigante". El Tiempo (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 27 March 2016. Retrieved 4 February 2018.

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