A large centipede in the genus Scolopendra was discovered in four areas of the Ryukyu Archipelago (Okinawa) and Taiwan. The huge centipede, about 20 cm long and 2 cm wide (about as thick as an adult thumb), was seen preying on Japan's largest river shrimp, Macrobrachium japonicum (about 10 cm long). It is one of the largest new species of terrestrial arthropods ever discovered in Okinawa.

This is the world's third semi-aquatic centipede ever discovered, and the largest species of centipede found in Japan and Taiwan. Genetic analysis clearly confirmed that it is a new species.

This is the first time that Japanese scientists have discovered and named a species in the Scolopendra genus which includes the largest species of centipede in Japan.

In order to scientifically confirm this species' existence, which had been rumored in the field for some time, Assoc. Prof. Katsuyuki Eguchi of Tokyo Metropolitan University and Research Fellow Jhih-Rong Liao of National Taiwan University formed a research team, with Prof. Tomoyuki Shimano of Hosei University in charge of field cooperation, collection and specimen collection, Sho Tsukamoto, Ph.D. student at Tokyo Metropolitan University, in charge of taxonomic research based on morphology, and part-time researcher Shimpei Hiruta of the National Museum of Nature and Science in charge of genetic analysis. Their cooperation led to the discovery, description, and naming of this species.

A Scolopendra alcyona centipede from the Yanbaru region of Okinawa Island. (Photographed by Sho Tsukamoto, Graduate School of Science, Tokyo Metropolitan University):

Because of its beautiful emerald green body color and the way it dives into rivers, the species was given the scientific name Scolopendra alcyona, after the goddess Alcyone of Greek mythology who dove into the ocean. It was also given the Japanese name リュウジンオオムカデ(琉神大百足)ryūjin-ōmukade, after an Okinawan legend about a centipede which got into the ear of the Dragon God living in the sea. According to the legend, the Dragon God suffered but when he saw a chicken that gobbled up the centipede, he feared both the chicken and the centipede. Shimano and Tsukamoto also named it in honor of the deep forests of the Ryukyu Archipelago, where it lives, as well as the fact that the centipede is so huge that even the Dragon God is afraid of it.

A Scolopendra alcyona centipede trying to hide at the bed of a mountain stream. (Photo by Fumiyasu Sato, director of the Kumejima Firefly Museum):

Although this species is usually found in riparian zones deep inside forests where it does not usually come into contact with humans, its jaws can deliver a poisonous and surely agonizing bite. Moreover, since the species is highly endangered, humans should observe them from afar.

For more information, see the report: "A new amphibious species of the genus Scolopendra Linnaeus, 1758 (Scolopendromorpha, Scolopendridae) from the Ryukyu archipelago and Taiwan" in Zootaxa.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.