In what is considered as a “historic” discovery, scientists have found the first-ever case of an amphibious centipede, which can thrive both on land and in water.
Scientists named the new species Scolopendra cataracta; a venomous and carnivorous creature that measures around 7.9 inches and thrives in freshwater in the jungles of Southeast Asia.
The discovery was made by George Beccaloni from the Natural History Museum (NHM) in London, while he was on his honeymoon vacation with his wife in Thailand.
“Wherever I go in the world, I always turn over rocks beside streams, and that’s where I found this centipede, which was quite a surprise. It was pretty horrific-looking: very big with long legs and a horrible dark, greenish-black color,” Beccaloni told National Geographic.
The specimen Beccaloni found was unique in a sense that Scolopendra centipedes were previously thought to live only on dry land, and not in wet environments like what he discovered.
Together with NHM colleague Gregory Edgecombe, and his Thai student Warut Siriwut, the team confirmed via DNA analysis that they have indeed found the newest species of centipede.
They named the new species after the Latin word for “waterfall” to describe its natural habitat.
So far, only four specimens of this particular centipede are known: the one Beccaloni found in Thailand, two which Edgecombe and Siriwut discovered in Laos, and one discovered in Vietnam in 1928 which is currently part of the NHM collection.
The specimen from Vietnam was previously misidentified as merely a common species.
Not much is known about the new animal, but Beccaloni has hypothesized how this particular species thrives. He also noted how the discovery demonstrates the immense possibilities ecological research offers.
“Other Scolopendra hunt on land. I would bet this species goes into the water at night to hunt aquatic or amphibious invertebrates… People tend to study streams in the tropics during the day, but there is probably a whole other range of interesting amphibious things that come out at night. It would be good to study these streams and their fauna then to see what is actually going on under the cover of darkness,” he said.