The giant centipede

Writer: Isaac Cohen  |  Editor: Ye Shangqing  |  From: Shenzhen Daily

A giant centipede is seen on the ground in Meilin Mountain in Futian District.

Giant centipede

Arthropods, a large group of invertebrate animals characterized by having jointed limbs, are without a doubt the most abundant group of animals in the entire planet. That includes insects with three pairs of limbs, arachnids with four, crustaceans with five and myriapods, commonly known as millipedes and centipedes with more than five pairs of limbs. It is the latter ones we will talk about this time.


Centipedes are distinguished from millipedes by the amount of legs they have in each segment of the body. Centipedes have one pair per segment and millipedes have two pairs. Our subject for today is one of the most amazing representatives of the genus Scolopendra, also known as the giant centipedes. They are abundant and diverse in China, with at least 13 known species or subspecies. Yet unfortunately, research on them is so scarce that we cannot understand all their complex traits and habits.


Giant centipedes (Scolopendra sp.) are well known for being venomous, producing toxins that vary from species to species, bringing pain and even death to their victims, including humans and other animals. There are not enough studies on centipedes to accurately identify the different species, let alone the different effects of their venoms when a person is bitten. So better watch out and don’t try to grab it if you come across one!


These amazing animals do share certain physical characteristics that make them easy to recognize. They have a long segmented body with a pair of legs on each segment, a pair of long antennae in front and a pair of spines coming from the last segment. They also differ in size and color. This beauty I captured in the photo here is about 20cm in length.


The giant centipedes play an important role in maintaining a balance in the ecosystem by acting as both predator and prey, controlling the populations of such species as mollusks and insects. On top of that, they have unique value for medical and scientific research due to the presence of their venom. It’s a must to help preserve them for the wellbeing of our planet, and it’s also best to leave them be for your own safety.