Scolopendra gigantea (also known as Peruvian giant yellowleg centipede and Amazonian giant centipede) is the largest representative of the genus Scolopendra, regularly reaching lengths of 26 cm (10 in) and can exceed 30 cm (12 in). It inhabits the northern and western regions of South America and the islands of Trinidad, Jamaica, and Hispaniola.
It is carnivorous, feeding on lizards, frogs, birds, mice, and even bats. It is also known to prey on tarantulas. 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. 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 (pain mediators), proteases and a cardiodepressant factor, is toxic to humans and causes severe swelling, chills, fever, and weakness. However, although bites are painful, they are very unlikely to be fatal to humans.
S. gigantea is a popular pet among arthropod enthusiasts, but must be handled with protective equipment, as even a trace of the venom coming in contact with skin can cause a reaction. 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.