Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Common Worm Snake | Typhlina bramina

Labels: Brahminy blind snake, Common blind snake

Binomial name: Typhlina bramina
Common name: Common Worm Snake

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Typhlopidae
Genus: Typhlina
Species: T. bramina


Distinguishing Features: Small, wormlike; smooth, shiny scales; blunt head and tail; no definite pattern.

Average Length: 12.5 cm; At Birth: 3.5 cm; Maximum: 17 cm (Beaked Worm Snake: 60 cm).

Description: Common Worm Snakes are reddish-brown or black, and their widely overlapping soft scales have a shining sheen. Superficially they look like earthworms. The tail is similar to the blunt head, but bears a tiny spine; the eyes are barely visible dots and covered by scales. The underside is usually lighter. Magnification is needed to show the scales and tongue to prove them to be miniatures of the snake world. This is the commonest of the 14 species of worm snakes (or blind snakes). They are the smallest of Indian snakes and very little is known about them. Some people call them primitive but these snakes are highly specific for underground survival, and their sensory behaviour and mechanics of movement are of great significance to scientists. Until recently, the scientific name of the Common Worm Snake was Typhlops braminus; then it was discovered that the genus included several subgroups.

Distribution: They are found throughout India including the Andamans. One of the two snakes is reported from Lakshadweep Islands. They originate up-to 1000 m above sea level in Indian ranges.

Habitat: Worm snakes find shelter underground, in ant and termite nests. They also establish themselves under logs, moist leaves and humus in wet forests, dry jungle and even city gardens.

Habits: This species turns out to be all-female and parthenogenetic. In fact, common worm snakes have many rivals and only come to the surface at night. When handed, they give off an unpleasant smelling musk, at the same time poking with their tail-point in a convincing act of ‘mock-stinging’. The musk lets other worm snakes know of their existence and acts as an ant and predator repellent.

Young: This snake lays 5-8 self-fertilized eggs; the time of egg-laying in India is not yet known.

Food: They feed evidently on worms, the soft-bodied larva and eggs of ants and termites, tunnels of which they reside in. Apparently, confined worm snakes at the Madras Snake Park have fed on earth worms.

Status: The distribution and survival of this group of snakes directly reflects soil humidity and temperature. Since deforestation has become extensive in India, it is likely that some of the forest species of worm snakes will not continue to exist.

Remarks: Common Worm Snakes are possibly the world’s most widely distributed snakes. Carried around the world in flower pots (by accident), they have occupied even the snake-less islands like Lakshadweep, New Zealand and Hawaii.

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