Giant Centipede

Oversized segmented Invertebrate of Missouri and Arkansas.

Physical description: Length, 7-18 inches. Arthropod with multiple legs.

Behavior: Female wraps itself around newly hatched young.

Distribution: Ozark Mountains near Gainesville, Bradleyville, Stone County, and Taney County, Missouri; Marion County, Arkansas.

Significant sighting: S. C. Turnbo collected stories of large centipedes in the Ozarks in the mid-nineteenth century. An 18-inch centipede was said to have been captured alive by Bent Music on Jimmie's Creek in Marion County, Arkansas, in 1860. It was placed in a jar of alcohol in a drugstore in Yellville, but people lost track of it during the Civil War.

Possible explanation: The largest known species of centipede in North America is the Giant desert centipede (Scolopendra heros), a black-and-orange banded animal with yellow legs that grows to more than 8 inches. It is found in Mexico and the southern United States. Females guard their hatchlings closely for a few days after birth. A related species, the Galapagos centipede (S. galapagensis), is the largest in the world, growing to 17 inches.

Sources: Desmond Walls Allen, ed., Turnbo's Tales ofthe Ozarks: Snakes, Birds and Insect Stories (Conway: Arkansas Research, 1989); Silas Claiborn Turnbo, The White River Chronicles of S. C. Turnbo: Man and Wildlife on the Ozarks Frontier (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1994); Chad Arment, "Giant Centipedes in the Ozarks," North American BioFortean Review 1, no. 2 (June 1999): 5-6, http://www.

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