Weird, noodle-shaped amphibians often known as caecilians present in South Florida canal — ScienceDaily

Weird, noodle-shaped amphibians often known as caecilians present in South Florida canal — ScienceDaily

Caecilians have arrived in Miami. Florida Fish and Wildlife biologists captured one of many obscure legless amphibians within the Tamiami Canal, the primary instance of an launched caecilian within the U.S.

Florida Museum of Natural History scientists used DNA testing to determine the specimen because the Rio Cauca caecilian, Typhlonectes natans, a local of Colombia and Venezuela. While caecilians — pronounced like “Sicilians” — hunt and scavenge numerous sorts of small animals, museum consultants say it is too early to foretell their potential affect on the native ecosystem.

“Very little is thought about these animals within the wild, however there’s nothing significantly harmful about them, and so they do not look like critical predators,” mentioned Coleman Sheehy, Florida Museum’s herpetology assortment supervisor. “They’ll in all probability eat small animals and get eaten by bigger ones. This could possibly be simply one other non-native species within the South Florida combine.”

Sheehy first discovered of the caecilian when FWC officers despatched him {a photograph} in 2019, puzzled on the two-foot-long eel-like animal they’d netted in shallow water throughout a routine survey of the Tamiami Canal, also referred to as the C-4 Canal. After the caecilian died in captivity, it was despatched to the Florida Museum for additional evaluation. Since then, Sheehy has acquired a number of different specimens and studies of caecilians within the canal and can conduct fieldwork within the space to find out their numbers and vary.

“At this level, we actually do not know sufficient to say whether or not caecilians are established within the C-4 Canal,” he mentioned. “That’s what we wish to discover out.”

Little is thought about this group of reclusive animals. Many caecilians spend their lives burrowed underground whereas others, together with Typhlonectes natans, completely inhabit recent water. Although they resemble worms or snakes, they comprise a separate order of amphibians, distinct from frogs, toads, salamanders and newts. Caecilians can vary in dimension from a couple of inches to five toes lengthy, relying on the species, and have extraordinarily poor eyesight — their title interprets to “blind ones.” They even have a pair of sensory tentacles situated between their eyes and nostrils, constructions which might be distinctive to caecilians and should assist them discover meals.

The northern tip of their vary within the Western Hemisphere is southern Mexico, which is dwelling to a gaggle of land-dwelling caecilians, and so they’re additionally present in tropical elements of Africa and Southeast Asia. Fossil stays of historic caecilian ancestors, courting again greater than 170 million years, have been found within the American Southwest, however aside from the caecilians not too long ago launched to South Florida, no representatives of this lineage stay within the U.S. right now.

“This was not on my radar,” Sheehy mentioned. “I did not suppose we would at some point discover a caecilian in Florida. So, this was an enormous shock.”

Typhlonectes natans is the commonest caecilian within the pet commerce and can breed in captivity, giving start to stay younger. Because this species is usually saved in aquariums indoors and might’t simply escape, Sheehy suspects somebody discarded their undesirable pets within the canal.

In its native vary, Typhlonectes natans lives in heat, slow-moving our bodies of shallow water with aquatic vegetation.

“Parts of the C-4 Canal are identical to that,” Sheehy mentioned. “This could also be an atmosphere the place this species can thrive.”

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Materials supplied by Florida Museum of Natural History. Original written by Natalie van Hoose. Note: Content could also be edited for type and size.

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