Caecilians

I had no idea what caecilians were until I visited the Herpetology Section, National Museums of Kenya back in 2010. Since then I have been reading alot to improve my knowledge on caecilians and how they can be conserved.

Caecilians are limbless amphibians that resemble earthworms, eels or blind snakes.

They are found in the tropics of Africa, South and Central America and South Asia

They are well adapted to burrowing since most inhabit specific habitat such as soils, under rocks, leaf litter, humus and decomposing logs. Some are aquatic.

Their colour varies with some being brightly coloured while others are dark.Their skins can secret toxins to put off predators.

Photograph credit, S.D. Biju

Most caecilians feed on termites, earthworms and insects larvae. Caecilians reproduce sexually and are the only group of amphibians that have internal insermination, most of them are viviparous (Live bearers) and others are oviparous (egg laying) where the female guards the eggs.

Photograph credit, S.D. Biju

Very little is known of caecilians. This may be contributed to the fact that they are rarely encountered in any amphibian surveys. A good number of them are Data Deficient according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); since there is no information available on their conservation status such as breeding success, known threats and population levels.

In Africa, caecilians are found in West Africa (Cameroon, Congo,Gabon, Equitorial Guinea and Nigeria) in Eastern Africa (Ethiopia, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania) other countries are Malawi, Mozambique and Seychelles.

In Kenya, caecilians are commonly found along the Coastal forests from Taita hills down to Shimba Hills. Recent surveys lead to a discovery of caecilians in Nyambene Hills, Meru.

There are about five known species of Caecilians in Kenya (to be confirmed). The Sagalla Caecilian which is Critically Endangered and only is found in Sagalla hills in Taita. It is greatly threatened by habitat destruction due to deforestation, read more  here. 

 

Sagalla Caecilian – Critically Endangered. Source, edgeofexistence.org.  

Taita Hill Caecilian which is listed as Least Concern is also found in Taita Hills.

Taita Hill caecilian – Least Concern. Photo credit, BBC.

Changamwe Caecilian listed as Data Deficient; it is believed to occur in Shimba hills and on farmlands along the Coast, mainly under banana, mango and coconut plantations in Mazeras, Changamwe and Kisauni (Mombasa). There is urgent need for studies/research to know and document the conservation status of this species. More information here.

Changamwe Caecilian – Data Deficient. Source, edgeofexistence.org

Denhardti’s African Caecilian is also listed as Data Deficient and is believed to occur along Tana River Forests. It was recently rediscovered in Nyambene Hills.There is no picture.

Habitat destruction and land use change has greatly affected the survival of caecilians. Their habitats need to be protection and conserved for these species to survive. Increased awareness among the local people who are likely to encounter caecilians should be encouraged.

Here are a few cool pictures of caecilians.

Photo Credit: rhampotheca.com
Yellow striped Caecilian. Source, bangkokherps.wordpress.
Source, goldridge08.com

Keep well!

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