Erakina

A centipede named after a cursed woman – Erakina

Published Date : December 3, 2021
The newly found amphibious centipede.
It was found in Japan and is more than 20cm in length.

A new species of centipede has been discovered on the islands of Japan, in the Ryukyu Islands after 143 long years. The species is only the third amphibious centipede or Scolopendra to be listed and identified. 

This 20cm long and 2cm wide centipede has become the largest centipede species in Japan and Taiwan. It is a jade-coloured centipede and might be longer than an average human hand..!!..

An interesting fact about its scientific name is that it has been named after a cursed woman in Greek mythology. Now, why did the scientists choose such a name is still a mystery but for now we can have a look at this newly discovered centipede in detail…

What is the new species? 

The family of Scolopendridae consists of the genus Scolopendra which encompasses giant tropical centipedes. Around 100 species can be found around the world. They are predominantly located in tropical and subtropical countries like North Africa, Southeast Asia, North or Central America and the Mediterranean. 

The Ryukyu Islands in Japan.
The islands have these giant centipedes.

The newbie is the species of an amphibious, large centipede, recently discovered on the islands in the archipelago of Japan.

All members of the genus are active predators and feed on insects and other invertebrates. They are highly poisonous and their venom is dangerous for all vertebrates including human beings. 

The newbie is the species of an amphibious, large centipede, recently discovered on the Ryukyu Islands in the archipelago of Japan. It has a jade-coloured shell and is found mainly in freshwater streams. Its diet consists of large freshwater prawns.

What is the mystery after its name? 

The newly discovered species of centipede has been given the name Scolopendra Alcyona. 

The name S.Alcyona has been derived from Alcyona, a cursed woman in Greek mythology. She was cursed by the Gods because she compared herself to the Goddess Hera. Due to the curse, she transformed into a ‘halcyon bird’, now famously known as a Kingfisher.

Kingfisher.
The centipede’s scientific name means a kingfisher.

The centipede found slithering through the waters had legs of jade-green colour which were comparable with the colour of the legs of a kingfisher. So, this inspired the researchers to name the centipede S.Alcyona. 

The Japanese name is Ryujinomukade which has its roots in mythology. According to local stories revolving around the Ryukyu Islands, hundreds of years ago people painted their boats with pictures of centipedes on flags to ward off a dragon God named Ryujin. It is believed that it fears the centipede after being bitten once. 

The Amphibious behaviour  

While being searched for in Japan, some of the S.Alcyona were found under the stones in riverbeds while some escaped their finders by sliding in the water currents. 

The main scientist involved in this research is Katsuyuki Eguchi, an associate professor in the Graduate School of Science at Tokyo Metropolitan University. He is the study co-author in this entire exploration work. 

The giant centipede.
The newly found centipede may be longer than an average human hand.

According to Eguchi, slight variations among the family are helpful to the scientists to differentiate between the species but this centipede was a hard nut to crack. Some of the morphological differences found in deep studies have shown the following things:- 

  • There is a spur on the 20th leg pair.
  • The specialised legs used for the transfer of sperm to the females are missing in this species.
  • Molecular data of the Alcyona has also helped to distinguish.  

The discovery of such species in the Ryukyu Islands is proof that these islands are a treasure of such indigenous species of animals and plants. They have tried to keep the biodiversity intact in the region which indicates an opportunity for the researchers to find success in researching other species too.  

A touch of humanity 

Though Eguchi is enthralled by this successful venture he is more concerned about the loss of such indigenous species of plants and animals. He is worried about the loss of species before scientists and researchers can reach them. 

The main issue is the dwindling population of every species due to their habitat loss. Many such species are still out there which haven’t been identified and rescued. 

About the giant Alcyona centipede, he is worried about the practice and fondness of keeping them as pets. Although they are difficult to nurture and sustain in confinement, still they are much sought after by pet owners. 

Thus a little bit of our compassion towards biodiversity might become a great step towards ending this valid concern of Professor Eguchi. 

by SAMBHAVI YADAV

Content Writer (Erakina By RTMN)

23.11.2021

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