An obscure, legless amphibian, popularly referred to by some as a ‘penis snake,’ is the latest invasive species to make its way to South Florida.
Formally known as a caecilian, these creatures are native to Colombia and Venezuela, but several have migrated from the Tamiami Canal near Miami International Airport.
Caecilians can range in size from a few inches to five feet tall and have extremely poor eyesight — their name translates to “blind” in Latin.
However, the ‘penis snake’ has a pair of sensory tentacles between its eyes and nostril that help it detect food, which it picks up with dozens of needle-like teeth.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conversation Commission says caecilians are harmless.
An obscure legless amphibian known as a ‘penis snake’ is the latest invasive species to make its way to South Florida
The first caecilian found in the same canal two years ago allowed scientists to perform a DNA comparison with several other specimens recently pulled from the shallows outside Miami International Airport — showing that the new creatures of the species Typhlonectes natans.
The eel-like amphibian found in 2019 was two feet long, but died shortly after being taken into captivity — it starved itself to death.
Caecilians live both on land and in freshwater and usually consume worms and termites, but have been known to snatch small snakes, frogs and lizards, wired reports.
Although they look more like snakes, caecilians belong to the Gymnophiona order of amphibians, which are more closely related to frogs, toads, salamanders and salamanders.
Formally called caecilian, these creatures are native to Colombia and Venezuela, but several have been drawn from the Tamiami Canal (pictured) near Miami International Airport
Caecilians can range in size from a few inches to five feet tall and have extremely poor eyesight – their name translates to ‘blind’
The 2019 specimen was the first known caecilian in the US, although fossils dating back more than 170 million years have been found in North America.
Other than the caecilians recently introduced to South Florida, no representatives of this lineage are currently known in the US.
Coleman Sheehy, the Florida Museum’s herpetology collection manager, said in a: pronunciation“Very little is known about these wildlife, but there’s nothing special about them, and they don’t appear to be serious predators.
‘They will probably eat small animals and be eaten by larger ones. This could just be another alien species in the South Florida mix.”
The Florida Fish and Wildlife says caecilians are harmless, as they only eat benthic animals and the occasional frog
Since this species is generally kept indoors in aquariums and cannot easily escape, experts suspect someone may have dumped their unwanted pets into the canal.
Typhlonectes natans is the most common caecilian in the pet trade and will breed in captivity and give birth to live young.
Since this species is generally kept indoors in aquariums and cannot easily escape, Sheehy suspects someone may have thrown their unwanted pets into the channel.
“In Colombia, where the species is native, T. natans inhabits warm, slow-flowing waterways with abundant aquatic vegetation,” the study reads. Reptiles and amphibians.
“Parts of the C-4 tract resemble their native habitat and could provide an environment where this species could thrive if it established itself.”