Scolopendra subspinipes

Scolopendra subspinipes is a species of very large centipede found throughout eastern Asia. One of the most widespread and common species in the genus Scolopendra, it is also found on virtually all land areas around and within the Indian Ocean, all of tropical and subtropical Asia from Russia to the islands of Malaysia and Indonesia, Australia, South and Central America, the Caribbean islands, and possibly parts of the southern United States, but how much of this range is natural and how much due to human introduction is unclear.[1][2] With a wide geographic range and numerous color variations, the species is known by a great many common names, including Chinese red-headed centipede, jungle centipede, orange-legged centipede, red-headed centipede (not to then be confused with Scolopendra morsitans), Hawaiian centipede, and Vietnamese centipede.

Scolopendra subspinipes
Chinese Red-headed Centipede (Scolopendra subspinipes) (5936077372).jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Myriapoda
Class: Chilopoda
Order: Scolopendromorpha
Family: Scolopendridae
Genus: Scolopendra
S. subspinipes
Binomial name
Scolopendra subspinipes
Leach, 1815 [1]
Scolopendra dehaani and subspinipes range.jpg
Scolopendra subspinipes range (squares)

Rhombocephalus smaragdinus

It is among the largest centipedes with a maximum length of 20 cm (7.9 in).[3] This centipede is an active, aggressive predator that preys on any animal it can overpower.[4]


Scolopendra subspinipes japonica

This is a large species which can grow up to 20 cm in length.[3] However in 2018 a far larger specimen was recovered in Hawaii by Clayton Cambra, who captured what appeared to be a Scolopendra subspinipes that measured an astonishing 36.6 cm in length.[5]

It has colour variations: its body is usually red or reddish brown with yellow or yellow-orange legs. In common with other members of genus Scolopendra, it has 22 body segments, with each segment having one pair of legs. A pair of modified legs known as toxicognaths or forcipules can be found on its head, which is covered by a flat shield and bears a pair of antennae. The toxicognaths are the major tools used by the centipede to kill its prey or for defense, as they have sharp claws that connect to venom glands.[6]


The species can be found in tropical and subtropical regions throughout the Old World. It is also one of only three species of centipedes in Hawaii.[7]

Scolopendra subspinipes as found on the Hawaiian Island of Maui

Diet and behaviorEdit

This is an aggressive and nervous arthropod, ready to strike if interfered with and sensitive to vibrations nearby.[3][4] It preys primarily on arachnids, including spiders, scorpions, and vinegaroons. It is large enough to overpower small vertebrates, such as mice or small reptiles, and will readily attempt to consume them. It tends to try to eat almost every living animal it encounters that is not longer than itself.[4] It seizes prey with its anterior legs and then uses its toxicognaths to inject venom. The prey is held by the centipede's other legs until it is subdued. When defending itself or attacking prey, the centipede uses its entire body, coiling around the animal and holding on with its legs, from which position it can use its toxicognaths to deliver venom.[7]


The male produces capsules containing mature sperm cells, spermatophores, which are deposited in a reservoir called the spermatheca of the female during mating. The female then fertilizes her immature eggs, oocytes, and deposits them in a dark, protected area. The female lays 50 to 80 eggs, which she vigilantly protects until they hatch and the baby centipedes molt once. If danger is detected, she wraps around her young to keep them safe. The young centipedes molt once each year, and take 3–4 years to attain full adult size. Adults molt once every year. They may live for 10 years or more.[7]


S. subspinipes has been reported as the apparent cause of a human death. A fatal case was reported in the Philippines in which the centipede bit a 7-year-old girl on her head. She died 29 hours later.[4] Its venom causes extreme pain, among other symptoms.

Human usesEdit

S. subspinipes is a popular pet among arthropod hobbyists.[4] The centipede was a traditional food source for Aboriginal Australians.[8]


The number of subspecies of S. subspinipes is unclear and varies between authors. Taxonomic characters have incorporated plastic traits such as color and sulcus structure and the number and position of spines, producing indistinguishable and intergrading subspecies.[2] A 2012 review found that one former subspecies, S. s. cingulatoides is in fact a distinct species, and that S. subspinipes has no valid subspecies.[2]

One paper suggests that all subspecies can basically be divided into two groups based on morphology[9] (see reference).

Some subspecies, (S. subspinipes dehaani, S. subspinipes japonica, S. subspinipes cingulatoides -renamed Scolopendra dawydoffi to avoid confusion with S. cingulatoides- have been either elevated or confirmed at species level.[9] A list of all subspecies can be found below. Those that are no longer are denoted with an asterisk (*).

Subspecies now considered synonyms of S. subspinipes are denoted by double asterisk (**).

  • S. s. cingulatoides*
  • S. s. dehaani*
  • S. s. fulgurans**
  • S. s. gastroforeata
  • S. s. japonica*
  • S. s. mutilans
  • S. s. piceoflava**
  • S. s. subspinipes (synonym of S. s. gastroforeata)
  • S. s. multidens* (raised to species level by Chao & Chang in 2003)

List and information:[9][10]

See alsoEdit

S. s. mutilans


  1. ^ a b "Species Scolopendra subspinipes Leach, 1815". Department of the Environment and Water Resources.
  2. ^ a b c Kronmüller, Christian (2012). "Review of the subspecies of Scolopendra subspinipes Leach, 1815 with the new description of the South Chinese member of the genus Scolopendra Linnaeus, 1758 named Scolopendra hainanum spec. nov.: (Myriapoda, Chilopoda, Scolopendridae)". Spixiana. 35: 19–27.
  3. ^ a b c "Vietnamese Centipede". Retrieved 13 March 2022.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Vietnamese Centipede (Scolopendra subspinipes)". Retrieved 13 March 2022.
  5. ^ "A colossal creepy-crawly catch: Man finds 14.5-inch-long centipede". 28 January 2018.
  6. ^ "Centipedes".
  7. ^ a b c Dugon, Michel M.; Arthur, Wallace (2012-06-01). "Prey orientation and the role of venom availability in the predatory behaviour of the centipede Scolopendra subspinipes mutilans (Arthropoda: Chilopoda)". Journal of Insect Physiology. 58 (6): 874–880. doi:10.1016/j.jinsphys.2012.03.014. ISSN 0022-1910. PMID 22490529.
  8. ^ Johnston, T. Harvey (1943). "Aboriginal names and utilization of the fauna in the Eyrean region". Transactions of the Royal Society of South Australia. 67 (2): 243–311.
  9. ^ a b c Christian Kronmüller (August 2012). "Review of the subspecies of Scolopendra subspinipes Leach, 1815 with the new description of the South Chinese member of the genus Scolopendra Linnaeus, 1758 named Scolopendra hainanum spec. nov. (Myriapoda, Chilopoda, Scolopendridae)" (PDF). Spixiana. München. 35, 1: 19–27. ISSN 0341-8391. Retrieved 13 March 2022.
  10. ^ "ADW: Scolopendra subspinipes: CLASSIFICATION".