This picture has been terrifying the Internet ever since the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department posted it to their social media pages late last week. It depicts a very healthy, very large, very intimidating centipede with a vibrant red head and lengthy fangs.
Although it might appear to be some sort of foreign beast to the uninitiated, this bug is actually a Texas native. Called the Texas or giant redheaded centipede, the species has been known to grow to 8 inches in length. This particular specimen, found in Garner State Park, certainly looks to be one of the big ones.
The centipede's bright colors are a warning: A piercing bite from one of its chompers is capable of delivering a painful toxin. The bite stings and causes swelling, but isn't life-threatening. Though an encounter might invade your nightmares for a while.
Luckily humans aren't on the menu for this bug, but some surprising creatures are. Redheaded centipedes are known to hunt and kill lizards, toads, rodents and even snakes. Their South American cousins have been witnessed snatching bats out of the air.
“They use their legs to grasp prey while feeding and their ‘fangs’ (actually an additional pair of highly modified legs) are capable of piercing the skin and injecting a painful toxin,” explained Ben Hutchins from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at TPW Magazine.
Like many other species of centipede, Texas redheads don't actually have hundreds of legs. This species typically has between 21 and 23 pairs of yellow-colored appendages. And it's a common misconception that centipedes are insects. Actually, they are of a different class of arthropod entirely: Chilopoda. They are also distinct from millipedes, creatures of yet another class entirely.
Texas redheads can be rare sights on warm, sunny days, preferring to emerge from their underground lairs on cloudy days. Besides Texas, they have also been known to roam from northern Mexico to Missouri and Arkansas in the east, and to Arizona and New Mexico in the west.
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