Last updated on April 23, 2014 at 16:13 EDT

The Mexican burrowing caecilian, Dermophis mexicanus

The Mexican burrowing caecilian (Dermophis mexicanus) is an amphibian species from the family Dermophiidae. The Mexican burrowing caecilian is known to inhabit Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and also in some secluded areas of the Pacific Slope. It tends to prefer habitats in subtropical or tropical dry forests, moist lowland forests, plantations, moist mountain forests, and rural gardens. It lives and spends most of its time burrowed in loose damp soil and under logs, leaf litter, and vegetative debris.

The fully grown Mexican burrowing caecilian reaches a length from 12 to 20 inches. There are around 100 transverse annular folds in its skin, giving it the illusion of having segments and giving it an earthworm looking appearance. The species have a pointy snout, and a single row of teeth upon the lower jaw. It has two small vestigial (no longer functioning) eyes covered in skin. A pair of tentacles, between its eyes and nostrils can be protracted or drawn back into its head. The Mexican burrowing caecilian has an elongated body and it is a legless species. The upper surface of the body is usually dark grey, while pale grey underneath with sporadic dark markings.

This amphibian gives birth to live young, fertilizing internally for up to 16 developing larvae.  When they are born, after 11 months of gestation, the little ones are 10 to 15 cm long.

The Mexican burrowing caecilian has a diet consisting mainly of invertebrates, such as earthworms, slugs, crickets, termites and snails. The larger of the species may even dine on small mice and lizards when given the opportunity. It moves by shifting its weight and twisting its body from side to side.

The Mexican burrowing caecilian has been labeled Vulnerable as a threatened species. Population numbers have be reported at a decline of 30% over the past 10 years. Population decline in many areas may be due to human intervention.

Image Caption: The Mexican burrowing caecilian, (Dermophis mexicanus). Credit: Franco Andreone/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.5)

The Mexican burrowing caecilian Dermophis mexicanus