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- - Scolopendra heros

- - Scolopendra heros
Montosa Canyon, Santa Rita Mountains, Santa Cruz County, Arizona, USA
July 26, 2013
Size: ~ 8 inches
Photographed by many at the Bugguide Gathering 2013. gathering_2013


Head color & names
I heard folks calling this the "giant desert centipede" when we were all looking at it. Seemed a good descriptive name to me at the time.

But apparently that's a misnomer, according to the 2nd paragraph of this U. of Arkansas web page, where it's asserted that the correct name is the "giant redheaded centipede". Then again, looking at this guy..."redheaded" also appears to be a misnomer :-)

Perhaps the best common name to use here is "Arizona giant centipede", for the subspecies Scolopendra heros arizonensis, as is done by T. Beth Kinsey in her nice Firefly Forest blogpost here, where she talks a bit about the interesting "pseudo-head" at the tail end of these centipedes. Some question the taxonomic validity of these subspecies designations (e.g. see Ted MacRae's blogpost). But it's useful to have a clear way to refer to such strikingly different color forms...and from the posts I've seen on BugGuide and elsewhere, it seems the black-headed form is geographically associated to the Arizona portion of the species range (see a US range map here, from Shelley(1))

BugGuide editor John Carr makes the intriguing observation that the Arizona form is like a color-reversed version of redheaded form found east of AZ. One has a black head and red body, while the other a red head and black body!

But the redheaded form has a mostly black tail-end, whereas the Arizona giant centipede is more symmetric...with both head and terminal segments black, and antennae and terminal appendages red. The symmetry of the Arizona giant centipede makes distinguishing its head from its "pseudo-head" more challenging!

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