Sunday, October 22, 2006

Oh, Caecilian, You're Breaking my Heart

Within amphibians, there are the frogs and toads (order Anura; it means tailless), which can be considered too cute to include on this blog and there are the salamanders and newts (order Caudata or Urodela, both meaning with a tail), which I’ve already posted about one1. There is a third order of amphibians, of which most people have not heardof. The scientific name for the order is either Gymnophiona (naked snake) or Apoda (footless), both of which are stunning endorsements for the inclusion of a caecilian on this blog.

Image from ARKive
Image by John Measey

The Sagala Caecilian (Boulengerula niedeni) is a species that was first described in 2005. Its name comes from the hill it inhabits (Sagala Hill in southern Kenya). Since they’re such a newly discovered species, there’s a lot that still isn’t known about them, but scientists are pretty sure that their range is about 30 sq. km, which is smaller than Manhattan Island. Right there, with that small of a range, they become listed as Critically Endangered. Along with its already minimal range, large-scale farming disrupts streamside habitats, where they make their home, and introduces pollutants.

I’m having problems finding specifics about the Sagala caecilian, such as what it eats (probably small invertebrates) and specific reproductive history, though caecilians are the only order of amphibians that perform internal fertilization. In fact, the discerning feature of this amphibian, used to describe it as a new species, is its oddly shaped phallus.

On a different note, I have received my Official EUTshirt, and I am pleased with the quality. The concept of a cute lamprey stuck with me since I wrote about it. I asked friends and family if the idea of a line of cute Endangered Ugly Things t-shirts went against everything EUT stood for, and they said, “Maybe.” Well, they’re up and buyable anyway. Enjoy, and I’m up for any suggestions of other EUTs, since I’m having slight problems finding good ones.

1Possibly more to come, ‘cause if you thought the hellbender was big and ugly, there are some bigger, uglier ones out there.


Beth Skwarecki said...

While it's true that Gymnophiona is the only entire order of Amphibia to have internal fertilization, the other orders do have members that fertilize internally:

All salamanders (EXCEPT Hynobiidae, Cryptobranchidae, and Sirenidae) fertilize internally: the male deposits a little package of sperm on the ground, which the female picks up. Fertilization takes place in the female's body.

Even weirder, the frog Ascaphus truei has a "tail" that is an extension of the cloaca, and it's used basically like a penis. There are also a few frogs that fertilize internally just by smooshing their cloacas against each other.

Anonymous said...

It has a smile and an oddly shaped phallus, what's not to love?

Alf said...

It eats earth worms and termites, which it presumably detects using the tentacles in between its vestigial eyes and nostrils. It may use chemical cues to locate prey items.

Also, it has much higher levels of pigmentation of other Boulengerula caecilians which further sets it apart. All in all one of the *cuter* Endangered Ugly Things.

So much of the public overlooks ugly endangered animals in favor of big cats, megafauna, etc. Thank you for supporting the little uglies.

Ugly Animals said...

Gosh I hate worms in all shapes, sizes and color. They should not exist in this world at all!