C is for Caecilian #A-Z Challenge
This photo of a caecilian is by Dick Culbert on Flikr. An extremely unusual sighting!
Caecilians are mysterious creatures, they are very rarely seen as they spend their entire lives underground. They are limbless amphibians with a backbone and are most nearly related to newts, despite the fact they look very like worms! They inhabit the wet tropical regions of Africa, south east Asia and south America.
They come in all sorts of colours, which is strange as they are completely blind or nearly blind and live in the dark, and range in size from 7cm up to 5ft.
Some of them have an unusual method of feeding their young – they own a fat, nutrient-rich skin that grows newly every 3 days which their larvae peel off and eat. In between growing a new skin, they secrete food from a gland at the end of their tail which their young lick.
They do not burrow in the same way that snakes or worms burrow. Their skeleton and deep muscles act as a type of piston inside the outer skin and muscles, so they ramrod their way through the earth by banging their heads against it and pulling themselves along into the space created.
Like snakes they have lungs, with their left lung being much reduced to fit their slim shape.
Caecilians are the only amphibians to possess tentacles – a small pair between their eyes and nostrils – it is not known for sure what these do, but they are probably a secondary way of detecting food by smell or taste.
Here is my caecilian poem:
A caecilian is concealed –
just tunnels through the earth
using its cranium,
it’s snakey and it’s wormy
but it’s not a snake or worm,
and it holds itself quite straight
as it digs without a squirm,
it bashes with its bonce
while it’s exploring;
you’d think its head would ache
to be so boring!
© Liz Brownlee
Poem © Liz Brownlee, not for reproduction.