Giant swimming, venomous centipede discovered by accident in world-first

Scientist on honeymoon in Thailand stumbles on horrific-looking being that is the first one known to swim

Scientists have discovered the worlds first known amphibious centipede, which grows up to 20 cm( virtually 8in) long and has an excruciating bite.

Scolopendra cataracta, from the Latin for waterfall, has been found in Laos, Thailand and Vietnam and was find scurrying into the water by entomologist George Beccaloni, during his honeymoon to Thailand in 2001. It is only recently that it has been fully described, in the online science publication ZooKeys.

Wherever I go in the world, I always turn over rocks beside creeks, and thats where I determined this centipede, which was quite a surprise, Beccaloni told National Geographic.

It was pretty horrific-looking: very big with long legs and a horrible dark, greenish-black colour, he added.

Centipedes usually stay away from water but when Beccaloni lifted the rock, it ran into the creek and hid.

He managed to capture the specimen and put it in a large container of water where it swam like an eel.

Beccaloni brought his centipede back to the Natural History Museum in London, where he works as a curator of orthopteroids, an order of bugs which include crickets and praying mantises.

Only four specimens have been found of this type of centipede, the first collected in Vietnam in 1928, which for decades was held in the Natural History Museum, misidentified as a more common species. None have ever been observed swimming before.

I would bet this species goes into the water at night to hunt aquatic or amphibious invertebrates, Beccaloni said.

Centipedes eat other invertebrates but also snakes and mice. Their small fangs can penetrate human skin for a non-lethal but agonising bite.

People tend to study creeks in the tropics during the day, but there is probably a whole other scope of interesting amphibious things that come out at night, said Beccaloni.

It would be good to study these creeks and their fauna then to assure what is actually going on under the cover of darkness.

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