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News to Bug Out About: Centipedes Can Swim Now

If you're afraid of bugs, the Scolopendra cataracta will be no exception.


The world's first-known amphibious centipede has been discovered — yes, a swimming centipede.

The large centipede was first seen swimming in 2001 by entomologist George Beccaloni, and scientists have finally identified and released a report on the new southeast Asian species.

Photo Credit: ZooKeys

If you're afraid of bugs, the Scolopendra cataracta, as it is called, will be no exception. The centipede can grow to an estimated 8 inches long and is armed with a painful, venomous bite.

Beccaloni first discovered the centipede under a rock while on a honeymoon 15 years ago and observed the creature, much to his surprise, scurrying into the water. The entomologist knew that centipedes normally avoid water, so he followed the bug into the water and captured it in a water-filled container. In the container, National Geographic reports, the centipede "immediately dove to the bottom and swam powerfully like an eel, with horizontal undulations of its body."

Photo Credit: ZooKeys Photo Credit: ZooKeys

When he brought his discovery to the Natural History Museum in London, though, centipede experts weren't sure what to make of the creature, so it sat in the museum's collection mislabeled as an already known species of centipede — until another scientist discovered a similar centipede independently and confirmed it was a new species of centipede altogether.

Beccaloni believes the centipede likely ventures into the water at night to hunt for aquatic invertebrates it can eat. He notes that there's still a lot to learn about nocturnal creatures, and that there are probably a lot more terrifying night creatures left to be discovered.

"People tend to study streams in the tropics during the day," he tells National Geographic, "but there is probably a whole other range of interesting amphibious things that come out at night."

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Illustration by Fabio Manucci

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