Featured Creature Friday: The Amazing Amphisbaenians

The first time I saw an Amphisbaenian — well, a photo anyway, of an Amphisbaenia alba — I had an immediate, survival-based, gut reaction.

I thought to myself, That creature is going to devour my soul and destroy everything I hold dear, just because it can.

And okay, granted, you might be thinking that that’s a bit of an overreaction, especially for a suborder composed mostly of animals who are tiny enough to be dwarfed by the palm of your hand. I get that, okay? I know it’s crazy. But have you seen these things? It’s like those graboids from Tremors decided to create little mutant babies with one of those chest-bursters from Alien. Don’t believe me? Think I’m over-hyping it? LOOK AT THIS THING.

This is an ajolote. It's the cutest of the Amphisbaenians, which isn't saying much. It's like a worm-snake-lizard. With legs. Most commonly seen slouching towards Bethlehem.

Though they sort of look like snakes or giant worms, they’re neither. They might be reptiles, but there’s a bit of debate about that, too. I find them pretty debatable in general. They are named for a mythical two-headed snake though, because most of them have a sort of blunted tail that looks like a second head on the opposite end of the body. (And some of them can shed their tails when they’re grabbed by a predator. Nice one, Amphisbaenians!) One of their defining features is that their skin is very loose over their musculature, and they can use it to move both forward and backward. It sort of looks like their skin moves by itself, and the body just sort of drags along behind. Yeah, that’s not creepy at all.

They also have very solid skulls for burrowing through earth; some have spade-shaped heads to pack the tunnel roof as they dig along, and some have plow-shaped heads and dig with a side-to-side motion that packs the tunnel walls. Most species (there are about 160 in total) don’t have limbs like our friend the ajolote up there does, but they do have pelvic bones embedded in their musculature, which is good evidence that they did have limbs at one point. Some lay eggs, some give birth to live young, some probably live carefree and childless lives of debauchery. They’re carnivorous, and according to Wikipedia they are “able to tear chunks out of larger prey with their powerful, interlocking teeth.” F that.

This is a white-bellied worm lizard. It's one of the bigger Amphisbaenians, and I'm pretty certain that it's going to steal my eternal soul.

Don't look it in its creepy, tiny, scale-covered eyes!

Sometimes, this sort of sight is featured in my nightmares.

That’s pretty much all I have to say about Amphisbaenians, to be honest. I’d try to dig up more info for you but I’m getting creeped out all over again just looking at that last picture. I’m afraid I don’t have the fortitude for this kind of research.

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7 thoughts on “Featured Creature Friday: The Amazing Amphisbaenians

  1. OMG! I had never seen such a creature before, even in photos… Now I’m fairly sure it will be playing a leading role in my nightmares!

  2. Ewww to all of these. They definitely remind me of Tremors.

  3. Well, I pretty much hate all of these!! I have a DEEP aversion of eels, and I’m sure these nasty bastards are their cousins. I’ll bet you’re glad that these are someone else’s photos and not your own, aren’t ya? ! :)

  4. Ooohhhhh…. that is not a sight I want to see again. Where do these things live? I didn’t read it mentioned. Hopefully no where in the Dakotas :)

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