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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 August 2005, 15:14 GMT 16:14 UK
Giant centipede legs it to the UK
A giant centipede, Scolopendra gigantea
The centipede may have come into the country with imported fruit
A giant centipede has been captured at a home in north London - thousands of miles from its homeland in America.

Aaron Balick thought the rustling sound was a mouse on the loose, until he found the nine-inch venomous arthropod under papers behind his television.

Experts at the Natural History Museum identified it as Scolopendra gigantea - the largest species of centipede.

It is thought to have arrived in Britain in a cargo of electrical goods or fruit, ending up in Islington.

"The sound was coming from under some papers which I lifted, expecting to see the mouse scamper away," said 32-year-old Mr Balick.

You would expect something of this size and ferocity to be discovered long before it reached the haven of someone's home
Stuart Hine

"Instead, I saw this prehistoric-looking animal skitter away behind a stack of books.

"I was shocked. I thought, 'there's no way this thing is in my house, this is not for real'."

He trapped the centipede with a container against a wall and left it there overnight.

The next day he took it to the Natural History Museum where entomologist Stuart Hine revealed the poisonous nature of the creature.

Blistering rash

He said Mr Balick was "incredibly brave" to have tackled the centipede.

"Large and exotic invertebrates are transported with goods all the time, but you would expect something of this size and ferocity to be discovered long before it reached the haven of someone's home," he said.

He added that he had heard reports of one such creature growing to 18 inches in Venezuela.

Their sting, which is given through the front claws, can result in a blistering rash, nausea and fever.

No antidote to the venom exists, but the sting is very rarely life-threatening.




SEE ALSO:
Ancient arthropod caught moulting
06 May 04 |  Science/Nature
Centipede enjoys hustle and bustle
26 Jul 02 |  Science/Nature


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