There are almost 200 different species of caecilians, but the vast majority of people will never come into contact with one. Because of this, they frequently inhabit subterranean environments, where their long, streamlined bodies allow them to tunnel through loose soil and ground litter. Caecilians, also known as seilyuns (pronounced “seh-SILL-yuns”), are limbless amphibians that, at first glance, resemble a snake or a worm. The length of the smallest species is less than three inches, whereas the length of the longest species (Caecilia thompsoni from Colombia) can reach nearly five feet in length.
Despite the fact that there are close to 200 different species of caecilians, the vast majority of people will never come into contact with one. Because of this, they frequently inhabit subterranean environments, where their long, streamlined bodies allow them to tunnel through loose soil and ground litter.
Caecilians, also known as seilyuns (pronounced “seh-SILL-yuns”), are limbless amphibians that, at first glance, resemble a snake or a worm. The length of the smallest species is less than three inches, whereas the length of the longest species (Caecilia thompsoni from Colombia) can reach nearly five feet in length.
Continue reading if you’re interested in learning more about these peculiar amphibians.
- Some of them have eyes that can move around, while others have none at all. The Latin word “caecus,” which translates to “blind,” is where we get the word “caecilian.” There are species of caecilian that lack eyes, while others have eyes but they are very small and hidden under their skin.
- The only amphibians with tentacles. They are equipped with short sensory tentacles that are situated between their eyes and nostrils. These tentacles allow them to investigate their surroundings and locate potential prey.
- They are available in every color of the spectrum. Caecilians have a segmented appearance due to the ringed appearance of their skin, which is caused by folds of skin known as annuli. They can have a variety of colors, including gray, brown, black, purple, green, blue, orange, or yellow, depending on the species. Some of these species have poison glands, so the bright colors may serve as a warning to potential predators.
- They have the movement of worms. The skeleton and deep muscles of a caecilian act as a piston within the caecilian’s skin and outer muscles, allowing the caecilian to move by means of hydrostatic locomotion. In order to propel their heads forward like a hydraulic ram, they fix their rear ends in place, which allows them to take advantage of the forceful compression of their muscles.
- The caecilian head is adapted for the process of burrowing. They are able to navigate effectively through mud and dirt thanks to their hard, thick skulls and pointed muzzles.
- Caecilian mothers provide for their young in a manner that is unique to themselves. Some baby caecilians have very peculiar teeth, including some that are short and blunt, designed for scraping, and others that are long and curved, like hooks. It has been discovered that these teeth serve a specific function in the early stages of life. Caecilian offspring remain with their mother for a period of time that spans several weeks after birth. During this time, her outermost layer of skin develops into a thick layer that is rich in fat as well as other nutrients. Her young will use the specialized teeth they have developed to strip her skin and eat it. This peculiar form of parental care is referred to as dermatotrophy, and it appears to be something that only caecilians do.
- They are able to give birth to young that are already alive. Only about one quarter of caecilian species are known to lay eggs, while the remaining three quarters are thought to deliver fully formed young. Baby caecilians use their specialized scraping teeth to consume the lining of their mother’s oviduct before they are born. This occurs before the caecilian is born.
- The only amphibians that reproduce solely through the process of internal fertilization. The males have an appendage called a phallodeum that is similar to a penis and which they insert into the cloaca of the female during mating sessions, which can last for several hours.
- They have a surprising number of teeth. The mouths of caecilians are packed with dozens of teeth that resemble needles. In general, they consume invertebrates that live in the soil, such as worms and termites; however, certain species are known to also consume small snakes, frogs, and lizards. No matter what it is, the meal is consumed in its entirety without chewing.
- They have jaws that are extremely powerful. In contrast to the majority of animals, caecilians have two separate groups of muscles that work together to close the jaw, as opposed to just one. When the animal is burrowing, these come in very handy because they help keep the skull and jaw rigid.