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Parental care by Scolopendra subspinipes

September 29, 2009

Here are a couple pics of a female Scolependra subspinipes that a coworker brought in and we kept for while in big glass jar in our supervisor’s cubicle while she was on TDY. 

 If I remember correctly she was named Betty and as you can see in the images she was caring for a clutch of babies.  According to a powerpoint presentation  on myriapods (Inventorying Myriapod Diversity in India – A Review) by Dr. Vinod Khanna, these baby white centipedes are called “protonymphs” and in a few weeks they will start to get some color and then in a few more weeks undergo their first molt and venture out on their own.  In the office we discussed the matter of parental care by S. subspinipes at some length, even to the extent that one of my coworkers made plans to document Betty’s behavior as she reared her protonymphs.  Unfortunately, a second, larger centipede that we were keeping (also in our supervisor’s office) escaped and brought all centipede experiements in the office to a crashing halt.  The escaped centipede was never found.

One last thing about centipedes…

I happened across this article online about centipede envenomation and I found it to be very informative.  The official reference is Wilderness and Environmental Medicine Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 93–99, but you can find it online at  http://download.journals.elsevierhealth.com/pdfs/journals/1080-6032/PIIS1080603201707004.pdf  .  The bottom line is you’re not going to die from the bite and the treatment is pain control and routine wound care, but one thing I didn’t know is that the application of heat at the site of the bite may alleviate some of the pain.

I sort of know one of the authors of this paper – Scott Stockwell.  He used to be an entomologist in the Army and is a well know scorpion expert.  When I was in the Army Reserves, my unit replaced his in Bagram, Afghanistan.  He had to leave prematurely due to an accident with a russian pistol – somewhere I have picture of the bullet hole in the tent where it happened.  Anyway, I guess maybe he is slightly accident prone since in this paper 3 of the 5 cases described are bites he experienced, and two of them are from the same centipede.

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