There are 3,300 types of centipedes, and in Hong Kong 4 orders can be found.
Geophilomorpha (soil centipedes), Scolopendromorpha (tropical centipedes), Lithobiomorpha (rock centipedes) and Scutigeromorpha (house centipedes). The Scolopendromorpha include the Scolopendra which is pictured above, which is the largest and therefore probably the most dangerous centipede. Interestingly, this genus is characterised by 21 pairs of legs (ie 42 and not 100). The last pair of "legs" as shown on the far left of the photo are not used for locomotion but is a sensorial organ.
Centipedes have a pair of modified legs connected to venom glands at the first segment behind the head enabling them to capture and envenom their preys. They can also "bite" humans, and these bites really, really, really hurt. It is worth summarising from the following medical report:
Centipede bite victims: a review of patients presenting to two emergency departments in Hong Kong: Centipede bites are most frequent in the months following peak summer, in dark indoor settings, and on the lower limbs. The outcomes are largely benign but complications can occur. Swelling deterioration after initial improvement can be due to infection or hypersensitive reactions, each warranting different treatments. Patients with a suspicion of impending necrosis should be followed closely, since they may need surgical debridement.
These creatures are aggressive, and is ready to strike if interfered with - like stepping on it. It preys mostly on insects and other arthropods but occasionally mice and small reptiles or amphibians are also taken I have seen a horrific video of one wrapped around the head of a big cobra. The centipede usually coils around the prey with its legs griping the body of the opponent, and then stab its forcipules into the victim for venom injection.
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