|Image: Jonathan Hakim|
Desert Blind Snake (Leptotyphlops humilis cahuilae)
"Other" is all the ones who belong to the superfamily Alethinophidia, which means "true snake". It contains all your fangs and venom, your spitting and constricting, your swimming and climbing... you know, snakes! The ones who encircle the world, flee from naked men and were on a plane that time. Snakey snakes.
The other superfamily is Scolecophidia, which means "worm snake". These are the Blind Snakes. It's not sounding good for them, being a snake that's blind, a bit like a worm and, as it happens, completely non-venomous. Then again, they're still here while a whole assortment of other Ophidians have long died out. Also, actual blind worms seem to do alright for themselves so let's not underestimate them.
|Image: Tarique Sani|
Beaked Blind Snake (Rhinotyphlops acutus)
Like some others, it has pointy scale to help with burrowing
They're not totally and completely blind, but they can only tell light from dark. Since they're burrowers, darkness is safe and homely while light is dangerous and foreign (controversy!). This humble lifestyle has garnered them great success. There are over 300 species of Blind Snake in the world, and they can be found all over the tropics.
|Image: Arno Meintjes|
Schlegel's Beaked Blind Snake (Rhinotyphlops schlegelii), a giant at 1 metre long!
|Image: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History|
Barbados Threadsnake (Tetracheilostoma carlae), a tiddler at 10 cm long!
Wait a minute... thread? They've gone from blind worms to a bit of thread? I snap thread! I twist and twirl thread! I am extremely cruel to thread. It's one of the reasons I'm not allowed political power; first they snap thread then they snap people.
I've always been denied the opportunity to starve my thread to death because they never seem to be hungry. Blind Snakes on the other hand, have a much bigger appetite. They also have really weird jaws, which I find difficult to fully understand since I don't know much about the medial process of the palatine or the posterolateral edge of the vomer.
Still, I do know that what they do has been called "maxilliary (or mandibular) raking", but there are two very different ways of doing it.
|Image: Bill & Mark Bell|
Long-beaked Blind Snake (Ramphotyphlops grypus) an (exceptionally snuggly) Tylophid
The teeth are arranged across the skull, more like our front teeth than our back teeth. So when the maxillae are kind of flapped forward and back, the teeth on the end rake in ants, termites and grubs.
|Image: Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad|
Helminthophis frontalis, an Anomalepid and redhead!
|Image: Omid Mozaffari|
Myriopholis macrorhyncha, a Leptotyphlopid, demonstrates why they're called Threadsnakes
Blind Snakes have done well with their weird, flappy jaws, but one in particular is in the process of TAKING OVER THE WORLD.
|Image: Vivek Sharma|
Brahminy Blind Snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus), world's most widespread snake!
One, no males. Things are so much easier with no males! No fighting, no courting, no sexual tension, no sex... Ah! Bliss! Every Brahminy Blind Snake that has ever been discovered has been a female, and wherever she goes she can always lay a clutch of eggs that will hatch into tiny snakes about half a centimetre long each. A unisex population like this is very rare among vertebrates, and there's only one other snake which may be in the same situation.
It has no teeth in its lower jaw!
The other help is their habit of nestling underground among the roots of plants. If that plant happens to be bound for someone's garden on the other side of the world, they'll go right along with it. And lay some eggs! This is why it's also known as the Flowerpot Snake. Such a whimsical name for a conqueror!
What would've happened if Genghis Khan was called Geoffrey Flowerpot? Would the word "flowerpot" acquire an exciting aura of menace and violence?
Finally... those "true snakes"... just how "true" are they?
|Image: Bill & Mark Bell|
Handle the truth!
Another idea suggests it happened as an adaptation to life swimming in the sea, but recent fossil discoveries lend weight to the burrowing lizard hypothesis.
Perhaps after all it's your vipers and cobras and pythons who are the oddities, the strange, devious rebels who disregard the ways of their ancestors. Perhaps it's the Blind Snakes who continue in the tradition of their elders. Maybe they're the true snakes.