Thursday 5 February 2015

A new species of Caecilian from Brazil.

Caecilians are tropical Amphibians only distantly related to Frogs and Salamanders. They have highly modified bodies, having lost their limbs and taken on a worm-like soil dwelling lifestyle with a body covered in ring-shaped folds of skin called annuli, which resemble the segments of Annelid Worms, which they resemble closely and are often mistaken for, though a typical vertebrate jaw and a mouth full of sharp teeth reveals their true nature. Members of the South American genus Microcaecilia have their eyes covered over by a layer of bone, further increasing their resemblance to Worms.

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 13 January 2015, MarkWilkinson of the Department of Life Sciences at The Natural History Museum and Marta Maria Antoniazzi and Carlos Jared of the Laboratório de Biologia Celular at Instituto Butantan describe a new species of Microcaecilia from the Área de Proteção Ambiental in Pará State, Brazil.

The new species is named Microcaecilia butantan in honour of Instituto Butantan. The species is described from one female and three male specimens, dug up at a Cupuaçu, Theobroma grandiflorum plantation (a plant related to Cacao producing edible fruit) with hand hoes. The female is 159 mm in length, the males range from 191 to 208 mm. They have more annuli than other known species (over 135 in all specimens) and a continuous tooth row (many species have a gap) with recurved but unserrated teeth.

Microcaecilia butantan,specimen in life dorsal view. Bar is 5 mm. Wilkinson et al. (2015).

Little is known of the natural history of this species, but it was easily found in the rainy season, within both the plantation where it was discovered and the surrounding forest, suggesting that it has a fairly high population at least locally, and so it is not at the current time considered to be under any immediate conservation threat.

The habitat where Microcaecilia butantan was found living. Wilkinson et al. (2015).

See also… new species of Caecilian from French Guiana.                                                                            Caecilians (Gymnophiona) are a group of Amphibians only distantly related to Frogs and Salamanders. They have lost all limbs, and live a burrowing lifestyle in moist tropical forests. Caecilians have banded...
Caecilians are limbless burrowing Amphibians found in tropical regions of Asia, Africa and South America. They resemble Earthworms, with circular folds on their skin which make them look...
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