Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Amphisbaenia - Worm Lizards

Heads or tails?

Originally, I was going to start the title of this page with Amphisbaena instead of Amphisbaenia, but after checking for a few references online, I realized that the Amphisbaena doesn't represent these worm lizards quite the same way, as it is a mythical creature instead of the real-life ones depicted below.  At any rate, if you're curious, the Amphisbaena is a mythological serpent with a head at each end. According to Greek mythology, the amphisbaena was spawned from the blood that dripped from the Gorgon Medusa's head as Perseus flew over the Libyan Desert with it in his hand. Cato's army then encountered it along with other serpents on the march. The Amphisbaena fed off of the corpses left behind.  If you'd like to read more about the mythical version of this creature, since this isn't a blog about myths, legends, & folklore, you can go here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amphisbaena

Okay, now back to the worm lizards...
It was long thought that the amphisbaenia had a head at each end of its body.  As a matter of fact, it is hard to see the difference between one end and the other.  The nose is flattened and rounded; the tiny eyes are hidden behind scales and the ears are similarly protected.  So as you can see, the head can easily be mistaken for the tail.  Before I say anymore, I'll drop down an image of one of these "worm lizards," as they are commonly called:


© 2007 Diogo B. Provete
The one shown above, is called the Red Worm Lizard.  There are well over a hundred species (I've read anywhere between 120 to 180) within the Amphisbaenidae family.  The amphisbaenia is perfectly adapted to its underground life.  It has completely lost its legs, except for one type of worm lizard, the bipes, which has two small legs.  Below, I'll provide an image of one of the bipes, which is the Mexican Mole Lizard:


Image Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/28867468@N08/5631784686

The worm lizards' elongated, cylindrical body is covered with scales arranged in regular rings.  It basically looks like a large earthworm, albeit this little creature is more or less in between a snake and a lizard.  Ah, the study of reptiles is at hand... Anyway, this lizard lives in tunnels that it digs about a foot below the surface of the ground, usually close to a supply of water.  They are mostly found in the tropical forests of South America, and in Africa - south of the Sahara, but some also dwell in certain parts of North America, Europe and the Caribbean.  It feeds mostly on ants, termites, and insect larva.  It often lives in the nests of ants and termites, where its eggs can be kept warm.  Because of this, natives of South America call the amphisbaenia the "king of the ants."  It leaves its underground tunnels at night.  On the surface it moves, unlike other reptiles, by up-and-down undulations.

---End of Post "Amphisbaenia - Worm Lizards"

Related Blog Post:  "Silky 'Dwarf' Anteater"

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