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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

The Caecilian: 15 Facts You Won’t Believe!

Discover caecilian facts about this amphibian that looks like an earthworm.

The name caecilian is a new Latin word that literally means 'the blind one'. Caecilians are legless amphibians that are found in tropical regions. Ranging from looking like a worm to looking like a slimy snake, they have no arms or legs, and sometimes it is challenging to tell its tail apart from its head. Just like earthworms, caecilians prefer to live under the ground in burrows of underground tunnels. They dig out soft dirt with their strong, thick, pointy, and hard caecilian skull, and because they live underground, they hardly have any need to see or hear.

Just like frogs and salamanders, these amphibians can survive on both land and water, some species of giant caecilian amphibians are huge and almost resemble a snake, while other caecilians are so small that you may mistake them for worms. All of them belong to order Gymnophiona, which is then divided into 10 families consisting of nearly 200 species. All species of caecilians can live for up to 13 years in zoos, but the caecilian life cycle in the wild is less known.

If you like reading these fun facts about the caecilian, you can check out more facts about the pool frog or goliath frog here!

Caecilian Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a caecilian?

A caecilian animal is a legless amphibian that can live on land as well as in aquatic conditions. They come in various colors, from the ringed caecilian and the Segalla caecilian to the yellow striped caecilian and the aquatic caecilian. Caecilian eyes are sometimes really tiny and sometimes are found under a layer of their own skin, resembling tiny dots.

What class of animal does a caecilian belong to?

Like frogs and salamanders, caecilians belong to the Amphibia class. Even though they are legless amphibians, caecilians prefer to live in burrows. Female caecilian animals also prefer to lay their eggs near water in soft dirt. Caecilian larvae cannot initially breathe underwater, but later as their lungs develop into gills, they're able to live underwater.

How many caecilians are there in the world?

Though the total number of caecilians living in the world is unknown, scientists have found 200 different species of caecilians living throughout the world. Caecilians prefer to live in tropical climates and many caecilians can be found in tropical areas such as the Mexican burrowing caecilian and the South American caecilian.

Where does a caecilian live?

As caecilians are amphibians, they can live both in water and on land. Thriving in tropical regions, caecilians prefer to live near water bodies and build their burrows in soft dirt. Caecilian reproduction also depends on the area in which they live and the temperature of their environment.

What is a caecilian's habitat?

Depending on the species, the caecilian habitat varies from moist tropical and subtropical marshes to terrestrial regions. Though most caecilians prefer to live in terrestrial regions, some still live underground in a network of burrows.

Who do caecilians live with?

Through living underground in burrows, they are solitary animals, and they prefer to live and hunt alone. They have sharp caecilian teeth that help them hunt and eat their prey and they only come together to mate with a female for reproduction.

How long does a caecilian live?

The lifespan for a caecilian in the wild is unknown, but it is known that they can live for up to 13 years in a zoo. Many different factors affect their lives in the wild and as they spend the majority of their lives living under the ground, tracking their age in the wild is really difficult.

How do they reproduce?

Just like their fellow amphibians, salamanders, the caecilian species can give birth in two ways. Half of the caecilian species are oviparous animals that lay eggs in a cluster near shallow water or moist soil that the females protect. The larvae feed with their temporary sharp teeth on their mother's outer layer of skin after they hatch from the eggs, which are twice as thick and filled with fat and protein that they require to grow. The other half are viviparous and directly give birth to live young caecilians. Some females from the species have developed a way to feed their offspring by allowing them to eat a swollen layer of their oviduct. This is called matriphagy by scientists.

What is their conservation status?

As caecilians belong to multiple families and have nearly 200 species, their conservation status varies, but the dominant one is Not Extinct. Depending on the species, their classifications range from Low Risk to Threatened.

Caecilian Fun Facts

What do caecilians look like?

Caecilians have different looks, ranging from long species that look like snakes to small ones that look like worms, they come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Caecilian characteristics are mostly different too, just like their looks. Some are grey and black or bright blue, other species are two-toned with a purple color and pink underbelly, while some have vertical stripes.

Caecilian is a pretty unique and slimy species from the order Gymnophiona.
* Please note that this is an image of an earthworm, not a caecilian. If you have an image of a caecilian, please let us know at [email protected]

How cute are they?

They are as cute as an amphibian can get. They are slimy and often look like a cross between snakes and worms but there is something super cute about how they move!

How do they communicate?

Caecilians communicate by sending chemical signals, which are received by others through small tentacles between their nose and mouth. Chemical cues are often used at the time of mating between males and females.

How big is a caecilian?

Caecilian range from a long snake-like body to having a short worm-like body. Their length is between 3.5-60 in (8.9-240 cm). Belonging to multiple families and species, they come in all different sizes and some live on land, burrowing underground whilst others live a completely aquatic life.

How fast can a caecilian move?

The exact speed of a caecilian is unknown as they have many existing varieties, so some are fast and some are slow. It is generally theorized that aquatic caecilians are faster than land caecilians.

How much does a caecilian weigh?

They weigh up to 2.2 lb (1 kg) depending on the species. As they vary in size and shape, the habitat in which they live, and their food, all these factors contribute towards their weight.

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no specific names for male and female caecilians, they are simply known as caecilians.

What would you call a baby caecilian?

Usually, like amphibians, caecilians lay eggs, and their babies hatch from eggs and are called larvae.

What do they eat?

Their diet varies from earthworms and small insects to fish and some invertebrates. Since they range in size, their diet also differs, aquatic caecilians usually feed on small invertebrates and fish, and land caecilians tend to feed on small insects and earthworms.

Are they poisonous?

Caecilians are not poisonous but they are venomous, their small sharp teeth secrete venom into the bodies of their prey, usually, earthworms, which paralyzes the insect and helps them to eat it. In the case of earthworms, they are usually swallowed whole by the animal, without even using its teeth to break up the prey.

Would they make a good pet?

Very few caecilian species are available to keep as pets as many of them prefer to live underground and others live underwater. Also depending on their species, their size can hugely differ, so not all caecilians are available as pets and a caecilian pet is not the best idea.

Did you know...

Caecilians are the only amphibians that have tentacles that are situated between their eyes and nose. These tentacles help caecilians find their prey, collect chemical signals that other caecilians send, and find any predators nearby. Also, caecilian pronunciation is "see-sil-ee-un".

Types of caecilians

There are 10 different caecilian families and nearly 200 different types of caecilian species. These are the only amphibians that are divided so vastly just based on their species and the exact number of existing caecilians are unknown due to this reason. Despite this, the 10 families are known, they are Caeciliidae, Chikilidae, Dermophiidae, Herpelidae, Ichthyophiidae, Indotyphlidae, Rhinatrematidae, Scolecomorphidae, Siphonopidae, and Typhlonectidae.

What is the difference between a caecilian and a snake?

The main difference between the caecilian vs snake is that caecilians have slimy shiny skin, whereas snakes are animals that have scales as skin. Caecilians also have bodies divided into small columns like earthworms, whereas snakes have a singular long body. Caecilians are venomous animals and, snakes, depending on their species, are either venomous or poisonous. Caecilians have tentacles, whereas snakes don't have tentacles and have split tongues. Caecilians also have eyes that are very small or under a layer of skin as they live underground, so they don't need great vision, while snakes have well-developed eyes to locate where their prey is and to help them find the location of other animals, including prey and predators.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other amphibians including Mantella, or the African bullfrog.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our caecilian coloring pages.

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