A team of researchers with the Florida Museum of Natural History captured one of the legless creatures in the wild after being alerted to their existence in the region. Biologists believe the strange specimen, known as caecilians, are native to Colombia and Venezuela but somehow found their way into the Tamiami Canal in Miami.
“Very little is known about these animals in the wild, but there’s nothing particularly dangerous about them, and they don’t appear to be serious predators,” said Coleman Sheehy, the Florida museum’s herpetology collection manager.
Although the creatures do look like snakes, they are part of an order of amphibians completely distinct from frogs, lizards, and newts.
Sheehy was made aware of caecilians in the region when a Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer sent him a photo of one two years ago. Since then, his team at the museum has been working to determine whether the species is established in South Florida.
“At this point, we really don’t know enough to say whether caecilians are established in the C-4 Canal,” he said. “That’s what we want to find out.”
Caecilians come in a variety of different forms depending on the region, with some known for burrowing in underground holes while others, such as Typhlonectes natans, occupy freshwater environments.
The freshwater caecilians are the most common type in the pet trade for breeding, according to the museum. Sheehy said he suspects the creatures were introduced to the wild when someone discarded their unwanted pet in the canal.
The amphibians can also be found in places including Africa and Southeast Asia. Researchers have discovered fossilized remains of caecilian ancestors dating back more than 170 million years.
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Original Author: Kaelan Deese
Original Location: Invasive, wormlike amphibians found in Florida