Giant Caribbean Centipede

Caribbean Centipede (For-tee legs)


Years ago when we lived in The Cayman Islands, I stopped on the way home from work at the Stop and Go (which was a 24/7 Texaco of sorts) for some gas and junk food.

I left the car running and went in barefooted, noticing the two young Caymanian girls who work there huddled together in one of the isles whispering. I grabbed a few things, and walked around the corner to the isle where they were standing. The one grabbed my arm firmly and yanked me across the isle.

I looked back where she was pointing (half expecting to see a freshly mopped floor, or a dead body) and I noticed a tiny centipede… inching slowly across the floor.

I was confused. “It’s only a centipede” I said, reaching down to grab it.

After all, when I was a kid I used to lay in the grass and watch them climb my knee.

Centipede, Caterpillar… what’s the difference?

They both had a conniption fit.

“NUH TOUCH DAT!!!” the one screamed. “IT A FOR-TEE LEGG!”

Surprised, I shrugged and walked to the counter.

They crushed the little thing with several whacks of a broom and eyed me like I was crazy while I paid for my things and left.

What I didn’t realize is that the centipedes in Cayman (called “forty-legs” by the locals) are highly poisonous and can easily put a grown man in the hospital.

Among the poisonous and most feared arthropods are centipedes or scolopenders (Chilopoda).

Many of the larger centipedes have an unpleasant bite and the poison of some giant species can be very dangerous to humans, especially children.

Their narrow extended body is made up of anything between 15 to 150 or more segments, depending on the species and individual, with each segment bearing a pair of legs. The head carries a pair of long, sensitive antennae and, in addition to small chewing mouthparts, a pair of large, strong claw-like structures which close together like tongs just below the head and are equipped with poison glands. Centipedes are carnivorous and use their poisonous head-claws to seize and paralyze their prey.

They hunt, mostly at night, for arthropods and other invertebrates such as insects, spiders and worms, although some of the very large tropical species (the so called Giant Centipedes, in some cases up to 25 cm long, found primarily in the South Pacific) also attack small vertebrates.

And fight Godzilla, in their spare time.

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