Noodle-shaped, limpless and eyeless amphibians have been spotted in the Tamiami Canal, the first discovery of its kind seen in the United States.
According to a new report from the Florida Museum of Natural History, the weird-looking creatures, known as caecilians, are predators that hunt worms, small animals and other amphibians.
In an official press release, Coleman Sheehy, Florida Museum’s herpetology collection manager said:
Very little is known about these animals in the wild, but there’s nothing particularly dangerous about them, and they don’t appear to be serious predators. At this point, we really don’t know enough to say whether caecilians are established in the C-4 Canal. That’s what we want to find out.
Scientists used DNA testing to identify the specimen, whose name comes from the Latin word ‘caecus’, meaning ‘blind’, due to their small or nonexistent eyes.
Caecilians have sensory ‘tentacles’ located on their head that may help them find food.
The aquatic, limbless, worm-like animals belong to an ancient order of amphibians that has been around since even before the dinosaurs.
Little is known about this group of animals, which are also known as penis snakes, as many caecilians spend their lives burrowed underground. They can range in size from a few inches to five feet long, depending on the species.
Not much is known about their predatory behaviour and this discovery might be the chance to study these fascinating creatures up close.
The samples caught range from a few inches long to 5 feet in length and are typically found in southern Mexico, as well as parts of Africa and Southeast Asia.
It is why this particular discovery in the Miami canal came as a pleasant surprise. Sheely said:
This was not on my radar. I didn’t think we’d one day find a caecilian in Florida. So, this was a huge surprise.