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Amazing Planet - Amazing Fun

    Giant "little creatures"

    We all know them as small things, that crawl around, and for most of the time, we can not see them, because of their size. But there are some of them, that can easily be in heavy weight class. Because they are not that small. They are really big, and usualy have "giant" or "goliath" in their name.

    Giant Centipede (Scolopendra gigantea)

    Scolopendra gigantea, the Peruvian giant yellowleg centipede or Amazonian giant centipede, is the world's largest representative of the genus Scolopendra, regularly reaching lengths of 26 cm and can exceed 30 cm. It inhabits the northern and western regions of South America and the islands of Trinidad and Jamaica. It is carnivorous, feeding on lizards, frogs, birds, mice, and even bats.

    Scolopendra Angulata|Scolopendra|Scolopendra Gigantea
    Giant centipedes

    The body consists of 21 to 23 segments which are coppery red or maroon in color, each with a pair of yellow-tinted legs; the legs are adapted for fast walking (even running). Besides their bright colors and irritable dispositions, which alone may deter an attacker, many centipedes of this order exhibit the habit of raising the posterior end of their bodies and erecting the last pair of legs high in the air, when they feel threatened. This has led many people to mistakenly believe that the animal's sting is in its rear. However, even if attacked from the back, the animal can still surprise its enemy by quickly clinging to it with its last legs and bending backwards, bringing the real business end of itself into action.

    Giant Amazonian centipede snatches a flying bat out of mid-air and eats it.

    The centipede has modified claws called forcipules which curve around its head and can deliver venom into its prey. The extremely potent venom, containing acetylcholine, histamine, and serotonin, is toxic to humans and causes severe swelling, chills, fever, and weakness. Some sources claim the sting is no worse than a hornet sting. In fact, the specific symptoms produced by their venom is called "scolopendrism".

    The bases of the needle-sharp pincers (actually a modified first pair of legs) of this individual can be seen besides the flat and almost circular head.

    S. gigantea is a popular pet among arthropod fanatics, but should not be handled without protective equipment, as even a trace of the venom coming in contact with skin can cause a reaction. Scolopendromorph centipedes will attack any prey of suitable size. The animal will tightly hold on to its victim with several pairs of legs while using its double stingers to kill it.

    Giant centipede attacks tarantula

    Female S. gigantea centipedes exhibit parental care, guarding and tending their nests of eggs. Juveniles are very dark red or black in color, and very thin with large spherical red heads. They molt several times before reaching adult size.

    Scolopendra Gigantea attacked by ants
    Left - Giant centipede, Scolopendra angulata, female, guarding her eggs and hatchlings under rock
    Middle - Scolopendromorph centipede hatchlings, species undetermined
    Right - This Scolopendra gigantea recently molted and is now being attacked by ants

    Centipede attacks mouse

    Goliath birdeater (Theraphosa blondi)

    The Goliath Bird Eating Spider (also called the Birdeater) is an arachnid which belongs to the tarantula family, and is arguably the largest spider in the world. The Goliath bird-eating spider was named by explorers from the Victorian era who witnessed one eating a humming bird and reported the sighting to the eastern world.

    Goliath Birdeater

    Native to the rain forest regions of northern South America, these spiders have up to a 30 centimetre (12 in) long leg span when fully extended and can weigh over 120 grams. Wild Goliath birdeaters are a deep burrowing species, found commonly in marshy or swampy areas. Goliath bird eaters usually live in burrows in the ground that they have either dug themselves or have been previously abandoned by rodents or other similar creatures.

    Wild Chronicles follows one man's mission to track down the biggest arachnid in the world--the goliath tarantula

    Female birdeaters mature in 2.5-3 years and have an average life span of 6 to 14 years. Males die soon after maturity and have a lifespan of 3 to 6 years. Colours range from dark to light brown with faint markings on the legs. Birdeaters have hair on their bodies, abdomens, and legs. The female lays anywhere from 100 to 400 eggs, which hatch into spiderlings within two months. The Goliath birdeater is fairly harmless to humans, as are most species of tarantulas.

    Like all tarantulas, it has fangs large enough to break the skin of a human (1-2.5 cm). They do carry venom in their fangs and have been known to bite humans when threatened, but the venom is relatively harmless and just causes swelling and mild pain for a few hours (like a wasp sting). Tarantula bites to humans are usually in self-defense and do not always contain spider venom - what is known as a "dry bite". The goliath spider also does not have very good eyesight and mainly relies on vibrations in the ground that they can sense from their burrows in the ground.

    Mating of Goliath Birdeater

    Birdeaters are defensive and may make a hissing noise when disturbed. This noise is called stridulation, and is produced when the spider rubs the bristles on its legs together. Birdeaters can defend themselves by biting or by kicking urticating hair towards their perceived assailant. These hairs can be severely irritating to the skin and lungs, and have been reported to feel like shards of fiberglass. Despite its name, the Goliath birdeater does not normally eat birds. Rather, it eats mostly invertebrates such as crickets, mealworms and moths, and also small vertebrates such as frogs, mice, and lizards. The Goliath birdeater is one of the few tarantulas which can capture and eat a full-grown mouse.

    Giant Amazonian leech (Haementeria ghilianii)

    Perhaps the largest freshwater leech, this species can exceed 11.8 in (30 cm) long and 3.93 in (10 cm) wide. The species is dorsoventrally flattened and shaped like a lance with a large caudal sucker. Adults often appear simply dark gray-brown in color, though younger specimens have a characteristic dorsal median broken stripe and other regular pigment patches on every third annulus. The somites in the head region carry one pair of eyes.

    Haementeria ghilianii
    Haementeria ghilianii

    Found in locations near the mouth of the Amazon River, as far north as Venezuela and throughout the Guianas. A capable swimmer, this species is more often found on the underside of submerged rocks or debris where it hides while digesting a blood meal or brooding young. Often found feeding on introduced cattle, this species otherwise feeds on endemic amphibians when young and on such local aquatic vertebrates as caimans, anaconda, and capybara. This leech feeds by inserting a muscular proboscis into the tissues of the host from which vascular blood is then pumped into its gastric pouches.

    Giant Amazonian leech
    Giant Amazonian leech

    The anticoagulant compound hementin, isolated from the salivary secretions of the giant Amazonian leech, is capable of breaking down a blood clot after it has formed. Hementin may be useful in medical treatment if it does not trigger allergic reactions from the patient's immune system during chronic use. Another anticoagulant compound known as tridegin has also been isolated from the secretions of H. ghilianii.

    Titan beetle (Titanus giganteus)

    The Titan beetle is the largest known beetle in the Amazon rainforest and one of the largest insect species in the world. It is from the family Cerambycidae (longhorn beetles). The titan beetle is the only member of its own genus. It is known from the rain forests of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, the Guianas, and north-central Brazil, where it is most commonly collected by the use of mercury-vapor lamps, to which the males are attracted.

    Titan beetle (Titanus giganteus)

    Adults can grow up to 15cm in length, or 21cm including antennae. It is said that their mandibles can snap pencils in half and cut into human flesh. Adult Titan Beetles do not feed, they simply fly around to find mates. They are attracted to bright lights after dark.

    Head of the Titan Beetle
    Head of the Titan Beetle

    The larvae have never been found, but are thought to feed inside wood and may take several years to reach full size before they pupate. Boreholes thought to be created by titan beetle larvae seem to fit a grub over two inches wide and perhaps as much as one foot long. The adults defend themselves by hissing in warning, and have sharp spines as well as strong jaws.

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