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April 25, 2012 6:26 AM   Subscribe

Limbless amphibian species found. [bbc.co.uk] A UK-Indian team of scientists have announced the discovery of a new species of limbless amphibian. The creature - about 168mm in length and pink in colour [image] - belongs to an enigmatic, limbless group of amphibians known as the caecilians [wiki].
posted by Fizz (52 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
But will it be able to sit on a park bench?
posted by him at 6:29 AM on April 25, 2012 [4 favorites]


All well and good, but can it sit on a bench like a human?
posted by fight or flight at 6:29 AM on April 25, 2012


Curse you and your swift fingers, him!
posted by fight or flight at 6:30 AM on April 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Just one of the many advantages of limbs. Watch and learn, caecilians.
posted by him at 6:30 AM on April 25, 2012 [11 favorites]


Fascinating stuff. The wikipedia article contains a link to another article entitled 'Caecilians of the Western Ghats' which sounds like a Yes album.
posted by jquinby at 6:32 AM on April 25, 2012 [11 favorites]


Sounds pretty safe to go up against when death is on the line.
posted by DU at 6:32 AM on April 25, 2012 [14 favorites]


it's a worm. Yay?
posted by Neekee at 6:34 AM on April 25, 2012


Something something Lovecraft something squamous denizens.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 6:41 AM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


But can it

wait for it

sit on a bench like a human?
posted by shakespeherian at 6:45 AM on April 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


I thought it was a joke... it just looks like an earthworm. Maybe this one is special since it can go underwater?

Also, the word Ambibian sometimes means an land/water animal in general but usually it means a specific type of vertibret, like a frog, salamander, etc.

A limbless one of those would certainly have been interesting. This worm... not so much.
posted by delmoi at 6:45 AM on April 25, 2012


These things are awesome. The list of weird things about Caecilians is practically endless.

They have eyes, but they're covered by skin or sometimes even bone. They have strange tentacles that emerge near their nose, and which nobody really understands the function of -- although there is one species that can stuff its eyes down into them, again for no reason we understand. They often give live birth, and sometimes the parents will nourish their young by feeding them their own skin. They live entirely underground, so they're super hard to find, hence why we discover new species sometimes. They look almost exactly like worms, yet are amphibians -- like salamanders, or frogs.

SO WEIRD! I <3 Caecilians.
posted by Scientist at 6:45 AM on April 25, 2012 [22 favorites]


Oh wait they are Ambibian vertebrates? Okay that is pretty crazy.
posted by delmoi at 6:48 AM on April 25, 2012


Caecilians are definitely not worms. They are definitely amphibians, like frogs or salamanders -- class Lissamphibia, order Gymnophiona. They have spines and everything, I promise. There are a couple hundred known species (most of which are found in Mexico) but their distribution seems to be pretty wide and there are certainly lots that we don't know about. Some of them don't even have lungs, they just breathe entirely through their skin! Man, Caecilians are great. If I get a chance I will dig up the lecture notes from my herpetology class and see if I can find some more weird-ass facts about Caecilians.
posted by Scientist at 6:50 AM on April 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


They have eyes, but they're covered by skin or sometimes even bone. They have strange tentacles that emerge near their nose...

One other particularly weird thing is that they are not dead, but can eternal lie.
posted by griphus at 6:51 AM on April 25, 2012 [9 favorites]


why does delmoi keep saying ambibian
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:52 AM on April 25, 2012 [14 favorites]


why does delmoi keep saying ambibian

Nothin', what's Ambibian with you???!!!!

(laugh track)
posted by Greg Nog at 6:54 AM on April 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


A ph killed his father.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:57 AM on April 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


Was it 7? That shit is rough.
posted by griphus at 6:59 AM on April 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


D.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:02 AM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


VOICEOVER: Is this you? Unable to sleep, but exhausted all the time?

A haggard, sleepless, unshaven man sits at the breakfast table as two kids run around rambunctiously.

VOICEOVER: Ask your doctor about taking Ambibian today!

The now-armless man feeds his skin to his profoundly confused children.

Close-up on the man. Skin and bone cover his eyes. Wiggling tentacles appear by his nose. He grins broadly.

MAN: THE DRUG DID NOT AFFECT MY SLEEPING HABITS, AND YET IT NONETHELESS FUNCTIONED PERFECTLY.

posted by Sticherbeast at 7:04 AM on April 25, 2012 [20 favorites]


Possibly the greatest thing about Caecilians is what happens when you try to tell people about them in real life. It usually goes like this:

"Man, Caecilians are so weird! There are about two hundred species of them, mostly in Mexico..."

"Huh? Sicilians? What are you talking about?"

"Caecilians! They look almost entirely like earthworms, they live underground! Nobody's sure if they're more closely related to frogs or salamanders..."

"Dude, that's not cool."
posted by Scientist at 7:06 AM on April 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


"The discovery on a plantation points out that these elusive animals are very vulnerable to anthropogenic activities and are living silently right under our feet," he explained

The hell you say! What all this points out is that there are strange, enigmatic limbless amphibians living under our very feet and there is nothing we can do about it! They could be listening right now!

One other particularly weird thing is that they are not dead, but can eternal lie.

I think casting aspersions on the veracity of our limbless brethren is a mendacious slur, sir!
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:07 AM on April 25, 2012


They're so strange, they're shaking my confidence.

Daily.
posted by dhartung at 7:09 AM on April 25, 2012 [17 favorites]


Apparently this thing was what they evolved from (or rather they shared a common ancestor)
posted by delmoi at 7:29 AM on April 25, 2012


Eocaecilia: "man, I am so tired of those giant birds snapping up everyone around me! TO THE TUNNELS!"
posted by batmonkey at 7:36 AM on April 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes, but how do they taste?
posted by Burhanistan at 7:40 AM on April 25, 2012


OK, here are some highlights from my lecture notes on Caecilians (order Gymnophiona):
  • Caecilians are basically blind, but can sense light and dark. They have eyes, but they are covered by skin and sometimes bone.
  • They can get up to five feet long, depending on the species.
  • They live underground all the time, except for one aquatic species.
  • Despite a lot of genetic research being done, their phylogeny is still unsettled.
  • They were originally classified as blind snakes. "Gymno" = naked, "Ophio" = snake.
  • They are probably true Lissamphibians like frogs and salamanders
  • Some of their fossils have salamander-like legs, but modern ones are totally legless, with no remnants like pelvic girdles or other vestigial structures.
  • Their skin has annular rings, which when combined with their eyelessness and leglessness, makes them look a hell of a lot like earthworms.
  • They do internal fertilization, which is unusual among amphibians.
  • They usually bear live young rather than laying eggs.
  • Those that do lay eggs will stay with the eggs to guard them.
  • Those that give live birth tend to guard their young after birth.
  • They have no gills, but sometimes their larvae (when they have larvae) have gills very briefly.
  • Two species don't have lungs, either.
  • They have retractable tentacles in between their eyes and their nose, which are derived from their tear ducts. These likely have something to do with their sense of smell.
  • One African species can push its eyes out into its tentacles. Nobody has any idea why.
  • Mating involves copulation using an everted cloaca. Copulation typically lasts for about 2 1/2 hours.
  • Young feed on their mothers both while inside the mother and while outside. See this video with David Attenborough. Internal feeding can involve scraping the walls of the oviduct, cannibalizing siblings, or the use of a gill-to-mother connection that is something like a placenta.
  • They are born with teeth which are adapted both for scraping insides of said oviducts and for tearing off the aforementioned skin.
  • Some have aposematic coloring (bright colors to warn off predators) despite living totally underground where nobody can see them.
OK, that's enough about Caecilians for me.
posted by Scientist at 7:41 AM on April 25, 2012 [26 favorites]


I always accepted these were amphibians, but:

>They do internal fertilization, which is unusual among amphibians.
>They usually bear live young rather than laying eggs.

Do any other groups of amphibians have these attributes?
posted by Listener at 7:45 AM on April 25, 2012


Sure! Lots of salamanders do it, and even a couple of frog species. With salamanders usually the male will lay down a spermatophore, which is like a ball of mucous and sperm, and then the female will take it up and fertilize herself with it. (Sometimes another male will dart in there and eat it, and then lay his own spermatophore instead.) With frogs I'm not totally sure how it works, it's much more unusual in frogs.

Same with direct development (i.e. live birth). The eggs develop inside the mother rather than out in the open environment, and the larvae (tadpoles) either are born after hatching, or less commonly will metamorphose inside their parent and be born as mini-adults.

It's an adaptation for species whose lifestyle is less closely tied to water. Amphibian eggs don't have shells, so they dry out easily. It keeps the eggs and the young away from predators, too.
posted by Scientist at 7:51 AM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Caecilians, you're freaking me out.
You eat your own mothers as babies.
Woah, caecilians, I'm down on my knees,
The ones you've lost by degrees,
And I'm begging you, please, leave my home.

Making love 2.5 hours in the afternoon with a caecilian's
Everted cloaca (Cloaca!)
I got up to wash my face,
When I came back to bed, she had pushed her eyes out onto her tentacles
and that was when I just couldn't take it any more....

Woah, caecilians, you're freaking me out...
posted by SomeTrickPony at 8:03 AM on April 25, 2012 [14 favorites]


I was just at the American Museum of Natural History and they had a caecilian skeleton in their vertebrate origins collection on the forth floor. It was about 8" long, and had a rounded almost eyesocketless skull. It looked like pac-man headed snake.
posted by bdc34 at 8:10 AM on April 25, 2012


I love this thread.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 8:20 AM on April 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


One African species can push its eyes out into its tentacles. Nobody has any idea why.

Sometimes I run my eye stalks through my loves silky hair, so I can relate to that. It's comforting.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:22 AM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Limbless amphibian... about 168mm in length and pink in colour

Are the scientists sure this wasn't just a sexting accident?
posted by fairmettle at 8:22 AM on April 25, 2012


Way to live up to the name, Scientist
posted by Bookhouse at 8:33 AM on April 25, 2012


Scansion schmansion, SomeTrickPony. That's some great stuff right there.
posted by Scientist at 8:37 AM on April 25, 2012


Young feed on their mothers both while inside the mother and while outside. See this video with David Attenborough.

You forgot to mention that one of the widdle baybees yawned! And then proceeded to rip the flesh from its mother.

so cute
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 8:52 AM on April 25, 2012




So are they good bait?
posted by rahnefan at 9:28 AM on April 25, 2012


Is "I was breathing with that" ever a justifiable defense?
posted by gorgor_balabala at 10:30 AM on April 25, 2012


A Caecilian once bit my Møøse.
posted by Splunge at 10:58 AM on April 25, 2012


Okay, it's been a few hours and still we have no answers. Why "Ambibian"?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 12:27 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Caecillians are called eggplants for a reason.
posted by ooga_booga at 1:04 PM on April 25, 2012


Important distinction: Earthworms have both sets of bits and mate 69-ily.* These things, on the other hand, mate via plain vanilla phallodeum-in-cloaca intercourse. They may sometimes do it wormy-style, however. More research is needed.

* The only thing I remember from high school biology.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:34 PM on April 25, 2012


Ambibians include frobs, toabs, and newbs.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:46 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


And baebillians?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:52 PM on April 25, 2012


	-----------------------------------
	| |                             | |
	| |                             | |
	| |        A terrible 		| |
	| |    dangerous secret         | |
	| |   you must never know       | |
	| |                             | |
	| |                             | |
	| |                             | |
	| |                             | |
	| |                             | |
	| ------------------------------- |
	|                                 |
	|                                 |
	-----------------------------------

posted by The Whelk at 2:15 PM on April 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thank you, Scientist, for the detailed listing of the characteristics of the caecilian.

But why no mention of the park bench?


Eocaecilia micropodia has cute little legs.
posted by BlueHorse at 3:27 PM on April 25, 2012


1. I think they are several levels less gross than hagfish/lampreys.

2. When I was about 10 I got into an argument with a family friend surgeon. The book had a page on caecilians and he wouldn't believe that they aren't snakes, and I had no intellectual framework with which to persuade him otherwise.
posted by polymodus at 3:57 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


And one extra caecilian fact: Despite having fierce sharp teeth, they do not bite in self-defense.
posted by hexatron at 4:17 PM on April 25, 2012


The Caecilian, an earthworm? Certainly not!
posted by shoesfullofdust at 6:56 PM on April 25, 2012


The wikipedia article contains a link to another article entitled 'Caecilians of the Western Ghats' which sounds like a Yes album.

*long, sustained, slow clapping*
posted by jokeefe at 3:28 PM on April 26, 2012


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