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Buried-Eyed Caecilians: Scolecomorphidae

Kirk's Caecilian (scolecomorphus Kirkii): Species Account

Physical characteristics: Kirk's caecilians reach a length of 8.5 to 18 inches (22 to 46 centimeters). They have 130 to 152 rings. The purplish gray color on the back extends down the sides of the animal almost to the center of the belly. The rest of the belly is cream colored. The top and sides of the head are dark like the rest of the upper part of the body, but there is a lighter area along the tentacle. The black retina of the eye at the base of the tentacle is visible through the skin and skull bones.

Geographic range: Kirk's caecilians live in Malawi and Tanzania.

Buried-eyed caecilians have characteristics that set them apart from other caecilians: The eyes, which are undeveloped and can only distinguish light from dark, are attached to and move with the tentacles and may be exposed when the tentacles are extended. (Illustration by Bruce Worden. Reproduced by permission.)

Habitat: Kirk's caecilians live in tropical rainforests and farming areas, usually in mountainous regions. They live under and in surface leaf litter and in the soil.

Diet: Kirk's caecilians probably eat earthworms and insects.

Behavior and reproduction: Kirk's caecilians are efficient burrowers. They stick out their tentacles to investigate their surroundings. They also can make their eyes stick out beyond their skull bones. Scientists do not know how Kirk's caecilians mate. They do know that these caecilians give birth to young that have the body form of adults.

Kirk's caecilians and people: Kirk's caecilians have no known importance to people.

Conservation status: Kirk's caecilians are not considered threatened or endangered. ∎



Duellman, William E., and Linda Trueb. Biology of Amphibians. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.

Lamar, William W. The World's Most Spectacular Reptiles and Amphibians. Tampa, FL: World, 1997.

Lawlor, Elizabeth P. Discover Nature in Water and Wetlands. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2000.

Llamas Ruiz, Andres. Reptiles and Amphibians: Birth and Growth. New York: Sterling, 1996.

Petranka, J. W. Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998.

Web sites:

"Caecilian." Animal Bytes. http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/t-caecilian.html (accessed on April 11, 2005).

Hawes, Alex. "On Waterdogs, Mudpuppies, and the Occasional Hellbender." Zoogoer. http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Publications/ZooGoer/2000/2/waterdogsmudpuppieshellbender.cfm (accessed on April 11, 2005).

Summers, Adam. "Squeeze Play." Natural History. http://biomechanics.bio.uci.edu/_html/nh_biomech/caecilian/caecilian.htm (accessed on April 11, 2005).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceAmphibiansBuried-Eyed Caecilians: Scolecomorphidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Kirk's Caecilian (scolecomorphus Kirkii): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, BURIED-EYED CAECILIANS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS