Orange-legged Centipede

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Forcipules of a Scolopendra centipede

A nice and chunky Indonesian centipede (Scolopendra cf. subspinipes, ~13 cm) from Komodo Island. Centipedes are voracious predators, using their muscular bodies to overpower invertebrates, reptiles and small mammals. On Komodo island Sphenomorphus forest skinks and geckos (Hemidactylus spp. & Cyrtodactylus spp.) are plentiful and wolf snakes (Lycodon capucinus) common, no doubt making up a great portion of their diet. Scolopendromorphs are heavily built and have two enlarged forcipules to inject venom into prey. Forcipules are actually a modified first pair of legs, so they are not anatomically analogous to mandibles in other arthropods. To subdue prey they wrap their bodies around and hold the prey still with their needle-tipped claws. When I caught this one it firmly gripped and bit into my glove, and I could see some of the venom residue when it released. Once the head was safely restrained I could feel the legs wrap around my bare hand. It was really cool to feel the shield-like dorsum, squishy abdominal segments with a texture similar to a snake’s belly, and sharp sclerotized appendages powerfully clenching my skin. Many of the large Scolopendra can be dangerous to interact with because of their erratic nature and propensity to bite. There are also some reports of medically significant bites from this species. Personally I find centipedes to be one of the most intimidating creatures for their size. Out of all the arthropods I’ve interacted with in the field, it is rare to be able to get a wild Scolopendromorph to relax in my hands.

Photographed after capture [5]. An in situ shot of an actively foraging centipede would be quite the feat! Forcipule macro image of a similar-sized but different individual.

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