Found primarily in the wet, tropical regions of South America, Southeast Asia, and Central America, Caecilians are the underground living amphibians.
Caecilians are amphibians that live underground. They look like worms or snakes, and are legless. They have a short tail, but sometimes it is hard to tell which end is the head, and which is tail! Their shiny skin is ringed with skin folds called annuli, and they usually come in shades of black, brown, grey, orange or yellow. Some species have tiny, fishlike scales within the rings.
Adaptations for underground Life
Because of their underground lifestyle, caecilians have little need to see or hear. Therefore, their eyes are very tiny in some species, or hidden under the skin-which makes some people think that caecilians are blind. In fact they get their name from the Latin word ‘caecus’ which means blind. Actually they are not blind, but their vision is poor.
Caecilians don’t have ear openings, so it is doubtful if they can hear sounds the way we do. They rely on their sensitive tentacles, located between the nostrils and the eyes, to locate their prey, and find their way around. These tentacles help the animal to detect chemicals dissolved in the air.
Some Interesting Points
Caecilians are found primarily in the wet, tropical regions of South America, Southeast Asia, and Central America. However, they are rarely seen by Man, and remain a bit of a mystery to this day.
• Caecilians look like snakes. Their burrowing way of life has led to adaptations like the lack of limbs and small compact skull- and these adaptations are the reason for their misleading appearance.
• The modern Caecilians, with their limbless, superficially worm like or snake like bodies, are perhaps the most unusual amphibians in appearance, and their behaviour can be equally strange. The earlier caecilian is reported to be from the early Jurassic period in Arizona, U.S.A.190 million years ago, and was named Eocaecilia. It had very small legs and feet. It also had well-developed eyes, suggesting that they may have had more in common with salamanders than with modern caecilians. Modern caecilians certainly evolved from limbed ancestors however, and therefore, underwent major changes in their evolutionary history as they developed elongated, externally-segmented bodies and much reduced eyes, and lost their limbs, and, in the case of the most recently evolved species, their tails too. At the same time, they adapted their bodies for burrowing, with a bony skull which is used to dig through the soil, and very tough skin. In short, the weird appearance of caecilians is a testimony to the way they have evolved to survive.