Critter Science

The Science of Animals

caecilian

The Unusual Caecilian

There are approximately 200 known species of caecilian. However, you’ll be hard pressed to find one, as they spend their time underground or in the water. Caecilian is pronounced ‘seh-SILL-yun’. They are legless and lack arms. In most cases, their eyes are just grey bumps under the skin. But you don’t really have the need for eyes while burrowing in the dirt. Caecilians come in a wide variety of colors, from grays & blacks to brilliant blues. Some species are two-toned, with purple topsides and pink undersides. Others yield vertical stripes.

First the Stats…

Scientific name: Apoda
Weight: Up to 2.2 lbs.
Length: Up to 5 feet
Lifespan: Up to 15 years

Now on to the Facts!

1.) Caecilians are carnivorous (eat animal matter). They eat beetle larvae, worms, small snakes, lizards, and they’ll even eat each other! How rude!

2.) Some caecilians have what are called protrusible eyes, others lack eyes entirely.

3.) A few species of caecilian have poisonous glands in their skin that helps keep them from being another animal’s lunch or dinner.

4.) They are the only amphibian with tentacles. They use specialized tentacles located between their eyes that help them find food.

5.) Their body is ringed with folds of skin called annuli. This gives them a segmented appearance, like a worm.

But wait, there’s more on the caecilian!

6.) Caecilian mouths are lined with loads of needle-like teeth!

7.) These critters have a hard and thick skull that they use for burrowing.

Did you know…?
Mothers engage in dermatotrophy. This is where she grows an extra thick layer of fatty skin that her babies tear off and eat; using specialized teeth. Is this what they mean when they say “bite me!”

8.) They move via hydrostatic locomotion. They contract muscles creating a piston-like movement, like a worm does.

9.) 75% of these critters give birth to live young, where the other 25% lay eggs.

10.) Many have 2 sets of jaw muscles used to keep their mouth shut so it doesn’t fill with dirt and also used to hold onto prey that is then swallowed whole.

11.) Being amphibians, they are capable of absorbing chemicals and water through their skin. They can also breath through their skin.

12.) Males have an appendage called a phallodeum, which they insert into the female’s cloaca for mating. Their mating sessions can last several hours! Go get em, tiger!

Now a Short Caecilian Video!

Learn more about all kinds of cool critters here.

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Critter Man

With over 40 years of critter experience to my credit and hundreds of zoology teaching hours to people around the world, I have amassed not only a continuing thirst for critter knowledge but a desire to teach others all I can about the majesty and wonder of our natural world. Critter Science is a culmination of such knowledge.I have hands on as well as book acquired intel on all kinds of critters. Whether they're on land, sea, or air.I will never say that I know everything about all animals. That's impossible, even for a savant. But, that being said, ask me any animal question and I'll answer it. If I don't know the answer, I'll get an answer for you!Let it be said that I have been oft times accused of loving animals more than I love people. I can neither confirm nor deny this.

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