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Early Blind Snakes: Anomalepididae

Physical Characteristics

Early blind snakes are small, thin snakes, with many species reaching just 6 to 10 inches (15 to 25 centimeters) in length and less than one-tenth of an ounce (2.8 grams) in weight when full-grown. Five of the sixteen species are a bit larger and can top 12 inches (31 centimeters) in length, with some reaching as much as 16 inches (41 centimeters). The larger species include the greater blind snake and the four lesser blind snakes known by their scientific names. Most members of this family Anomalepididae have no common names and are known only by their scientific names. The typical early blind snake has a dark brown or black body with white, yellow, or pink on the head and tail. A few species lack the lighter color on the head and tail and are all reddish brown to brown.

The snakes in this family all have short heads with rounded snouts, and most have slightly larger scales on the snout than on the rest of the body. Compared to other snakes, their tongues are quite short. They have stumpy tails that make up just 1 to 3.4 percent of the snake's total body length. In snakes, the tail begins at the vent, a slitlike opening on the belly side of the animal. The tail in half of the early blind snake species is tipped with a thin, sharp spine. The other species have tails without spines.

They look much like slender blind snakes of the family Leptotyphlopidae and blind snakes of the family Typhlopidae. The snakes in all three families have tube-shaped bodies that are covered in smooth, round scales. Unlike most snakes that have belly scales, or ventrals, that are noticeably larger than the scales on the sides and back, the members of these three families have belly scales that are about the same size as the others. The three families also share a few other traits. All have small mouths that open not on the front end of the head as in most other snakes, but slightly before the front end and on the bottom. They have tiny eyes that are barely noticeable, if they are noticeable at all, beneath scales on the head.

Early blind snakes do have some differences from the other two blind snake families. Early blind snakes have teeth on both the upper and lower jaws, while snakes in the other families have them only on the upper jaw or only on the lower jaw. In addition, early blind snakes have more scale rows than the others. Scientists determine scale rows by counting the number of scales from the belly up the side over the top and down the other side. Most early blind snakes have more than 20 scale rows.

Early blind snakes sometimes go by the common names of primitive or dawn blind snakes. Because many individuals have a head and tail that are very hard to tell apart, they are also sometimes called two-headed snakes.


Although some sources lump the blind snakes together in one family, most scientists place them in three separate families: the blind snakes of the family Typhlopidae, the early blind snakes of the family Anomalepididae, and the slender blind snakes of the family Leptotyphlopidae. The early blind snakes first got their own family in 1939 when Edward H. Taylor noticed several differences in them from other blind snakes, including a greater number of scale rows and the presence of teeth on both jaws instead of just one or the other. They also have an unusually shaped bone, called the hyoid (HIGH-oid), that supports the tongue. In early blind snakes, it is M-shaped, rather than the typical V- or Y-shape seen in other snakes.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceDinosaurs, Snakes, and Other ReptilesEarly Blind Snakes: Anomalepididae - Physical Characteristics, Geographic Range, Habitat, Behavior And Reproduction, Lesser Blind Snake (liotyphlops Ternetzii): Species Account - DIET, EARLY BLIND SNAKES AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS