DNA evaluation confirms that an eel-like creature pulled from a Florida canal two years in the past is a caecilian, in any other case often called the “penis snake.” The identical canal has since yielded a number of different specimens, resulting in issues that the non-native amphibian has taken root in america.
“To our data, this represents the primary report of a caecilian in Florida or anyplace else in america,” declares new research printed in Reptiles & Amphibians.
The two-foot-long specimen was captured by members of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Fee in Miami’s Tamiami Canal, also referred to as the C-Four Canal, on November 7, 2019. Personnel with the FWC have been conducting a routine survey of the canal once they netted the only dwell specimen in shallow waters close to Miami Worldwide Airport.
The animal finally died in captivity as makes an attempt to feed it failed. The specimen was then despatched to the Florida Museum of Pure Historical past for additional evaluation, the place geneticists recognized the species as Typhlonectes natans. The DNA evaluation helped to tell apart this specimen from a similar-looking species, Typhlonectes compressicauda, which is widespread in South America. Extra generally known as a Rio Cauca caecilian, Typhlonectes natans are native to Columbia and Venezuela. Because the seize of this ugly little man, FWC members have acquired a number of extra specimens, together with studies of sightings within the C-Four Canal.
Caecilians aren’t choosy eaters, scavenging and preying upon an assortment of small animals. One species of terrestrial caecilian, Siphonops annulatus, may even be venomous. Within the Western Hemisphere, their vary extends as far north as southern Mexico, they usually will also be present in tropical components of Africa and southeast Asia. The ancestors to fashionable caecilians lived in North America roughly 170 million years in the past, however other than these current sightings, the creatures aren’t recognized to inhabit this a part of the world. Caecilians choose slow-moving our bodies of heat and shallow water with aquatic vegetation.
“Components of the C-Four Canal are identical to that,” Coleman Sheehy, supervisor of the Florida Museum’s herpetology assortment and the primary writer of the brand new research, defined in a statement. “This can be an atmosphere the place this species can thrive.”
As to how a caecilian ended up within the Miami canal, the researchers suspect the dumping of undesirable pets. Certainly, Typhlonectes natans is the preferred species within the caecilian pet commerce, they usually’re able to breeding in captivity.
Essential subsequent steps will likely be to find out what number of caecilians are actually residing within the canal, how far they’ve unfold, and whether or not this species has established itself within the canal. The potential ecological affect of this non-native species is just not but recognized, representing an additional avenue of analysis.
“Little or no is understood about these animals within the wild, however there’s nothing significantly harmful about them, they usually don’t seem like critical predators,” stated Coleman. “They’ll most likely eat small animals and get eaten by bigger ones. This could possibly be simply one other non-native species within the South Florida combine.”
Caecilians are shy and have very poor eyesight, although a specialised sense organ positioned between their eyes and nostrils helps them find meals. Some species wish to burrow underground, however Typhlonectes natans prefers contemporary water. These animals aren’t snakes or worms, and as a substitute belong to the Gymnophiona order of amphibians. The extra acquainted frogs, toads, salamanders, and newts belong to a different order solely.
Sadly, Florida isn’t any stranger to non-native species. The state not too long ago banned the sale of invasive reptiles, as escaped iguanas and snakes have proliferated uncontrolled.