Centipede discovery shocks scientists

A new study has found that the centipede is causing disruptions to the food chain with a venom that allows it to kill animals many times its size.

A rather terrifying new study has found published in the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that the centipede has incredibly toxic venom that is capable of killing prey 15 times its size. The research sheds new light into the underestimated venom of the centipede, which is capable of subduing a mouse within 30 seconds despite the creature being much larger than the centipede.

The study’s abstract notes that centipedes are very efficient in their use of venom, which is “metabolically expensive” to produce but is very effective at taking down larger prey, thereby securing large meals for the centipede. Even human beings are not entirely safe from this venom, and although deaths are rare, they do happen.

Researchers have even seen centipedes running up the walls of caves to hunt bats. The new findings show just how extraordinary this species is, and how much they upset the natural order of the food chain with their unique venom. Hopefully, the finding could lead to breakthroughs in treatments for centipede venom.

“Centipedes can subdue giant prey by using venom, which is metabolically expensive to synthesize and thus used frugally through efficiently disrupting essential physiological systems,” reads the paper’s abstract. “Here, we show that a centipede (Scolopendra subspinipes mutilans, ∼3 g) can subdue a mouse (∼45 g) within 30 seconds. We found that this observation is largely due to a peptide toxin in the venom, SsTx, and further established that SsTx blocks KCNQ potassium channels to exert the lethal toxicity. We also demonstrated that a KCNQ opener, retigabine, neutralizes the toxicity of a centipede’s venom. The study indicates that centipedes’ venom has evolved to simultaneously disrupt cardiovascular, respiratory, muscular, and nervous systems by targeting the broadly distributed KCNQ channels, thus providing a therapeutic strategy for centipede envenomation.”

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