Biology

Newly discovered prawn-eating centipede is the largest in Japan

Newly discovered prawn-eating ...
"Scolopendra alcyona Tsukamoto & Shimano" lives alongside streams on the islands of the Ryukyu Archipelago, which stretches from Japan into Taiwan
"Scolopendra alcyona Tsukamoto & Shimano" lives alongside streams on the islands of the Ryukyu Archipelago, which stretches from Japan into Taiwan
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"Scolopendra alcyona Tsukamoto & Shimano" lives alongside streams on the islands of the Ryukyu Archipelago, which stretches from Japan into Taiwan
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"Scolopendra alcyona Tsukamoto & Shimano" lives alongside streams on the islands of the Ryukyu Archipelago, which stretches from Japan into Taiwan

If something were the largest in its region, you'd think that it would be well-documented. Such has not been the case with a newly discovered centipede, however, which is now the biggest known species in Japan and Taiwan.

Measuring 20 cm long by almost 2 cm thick (7.9 by 0.8 in), the not-so-little beast is a member of the Scolopendra genus of highly predatory centipedes. Not only is it the largest centipede in the area, but it's also just the third Scolopendra species known to be amphibious.

In fact, before it was officially classified, it was first observed attacking giant freshwater prawns on the islands of the Ryukyu Archipelago. After those initial sightings, its existence was scientifically verified on an expedition led by myriapodologist Sho Tsukamoto and Assoc. Prof. Katsuyuki Eguchi – both from Tokyo Metropolitan University – along with Prof. Satoshi Shimano of Hosei University.

The arthropod's scientific name is "Scolopendra alcyona Tsukamoto & Shimano" – Alcyone was a character in Greek mythology, who Zeus transformed into a kingfisher. Its Japanese name is ryujin-ômukade, referencing a local myth of a ryujin dragon god that was vexed by a centipede that had crawled into its ear.

The scientists state that it is the first new centipede to be discovered in Japan in 143 years, and it's likely endangered. It has avoided prior discovery mainly due to the fact that it inhabits secluded streams deep in the forest, which are not often visited by people. Plans call for continued observations to be conducted from a distance, in order not to disturb its habitat.

Source: Tokyo Metropolitan University via EurekAlert

2 comments
Kevin Ritchey
As long as it remains sequestered in its own remote environment where it doesn’t affect commercial shrimp production that humans and other species depend upon for sustenance, it has every right to live its lifecycle peacefully and undisturbed. Freshwater shrimp are a completely different genre that are smallish and often favored by aquarium enthusiasts unlike their larger saltwater brethren that are quite tasty. If these centipedes became invasive and strayed outside their natural habitat, they would be targeted by those of us who have a personal affinity with chomping on the larger flavorful varieties. Cocktail sauce optional. Seriously though, it is interesting that it’s taken this long to be found considering its size. Perhaps this species has been mistaken for another. Let’s see if the Japanese include a larger mutated version that Godzilla must contend with on Monster Island. Stay tuned....
Adrian Akau
Officially, the biggest ones reach 10 inches but unofficially, if you look at the pictures on the internet, they reach about two feet. My friend from Hong Hong told me that one night a huge one came into their kitchen. His grandfather stood on top of it and the centipede was still able to move.