Friday 4 January 2013

Rubber Eel

Image: brian.gratwicke via Flickr
Typhlonectes natans
It's the Rubber Eel! Occasionally called the Sicilian Worm!

"Sicilian Worm"? Oh dear. Oh dear me, no.

Luckily for us (not so much luck as our awe-inspiring intellect, education and interest in the world around us), WE know that it isn't a worm or a snake or an eel or a Sicilian. It's a Caecilian.

Image: Sibylle Stofer via Flickr
Caecilians are those extraordinary, legless amphibians that use their ridiculously bony skulls to burrow under the earth. T. natans here is a little different from most in that it's entirely aquatic, swimming in rivers and lakes in Colombia and Venezuela. With its big toothy grin, it looks something like a 50 cm (20 in) long sock puppet. A stocking puppet, perhaps.

Image: petechar via Flickr
Aquatic Caecilians still enjoy burrowing in the mud. After all, don't we all like a bit of a mud bath?

Image: petechar via Flickr
Most respiration occurs through their skin, like a lot of amphibians, but T. natans will also rise to the water's surface to breathe air.

They have tiny eyes covered in skin so that they're close to being entirely blind. They must instead rely on their sense of smell to fumble around on the riverbed in search of worms and other meaty things that aren't quick enough to escape.

Many Caecilians don't have a tail, so giving birth looks even more weird then usual

Female Rubber Eels retain their eggs within the body for about 7 months, after which they give birth to around 5 youngsters. The little ones are born with a strange, frilly gill (that kind of stocking) which is lost after a few breaths of air.

With that bit of flamboyant extravagance gone, the young Caecilians can race off like a 2 year old in a supermarket, eating worms off the floor like a 2 year old you really ought to keep a better eye on.

Within a single year they'll be about 25 cm (10 in) long, half the length of their parents.

*sniff* they grow up so fast...


Crunchy said...

Oh the indignity, to be devoured by a sentient sock! One that lacks even the courtesy to have googly eyes!

TexWisGirl said...

i looks so mushy!

Joseph JG said...

They're almost cuddly! Almost.

Unknown said...

I had 2 of these as a child, and the pet store owner called them medusa worms. He was wrong. Totally different critter. My girl's names were Silk and Satin. Aptly named. ♡

Unknown said...

I had one of these way back in the late 1970's. Looking to get back into aquarium hobby and would like to find one of these. Yes, they are a bit goofy looking and become very tame. My mother absolutely fell in love with its goofy antics and would feed it pieces of cod by hand and it would swim through her looped finger! (My mom loved all creatures, she was really a cool mom.). Can these be legally purchased in the USA.

Unknown said...

Who sales these
I had 2 of them years ago. I can no longer find them. No store even knows what I'm talking about

Casper Lorentzen said... have them