Rare Animals of India

Caecilians – The Limbless Elusive Amphibians: In the Backdrop of Kerala Region of the Western Ghats

Author(s): Ramachandran Kotharambath, Reston S. Beyo, Lekha Divya, Mohammed A. Akbarsha and Oommen V. Oommen

Pp: 3-34 (32)

DOI: 10.2174/9781608054855113010004

* (Excluding Mailing and Handling)


Caecilians, the limbless subterranean amphibians, are an enigmatic group of animals inhabiting the tropical and subtropical regions representing less than 3% of all the extant amphibians. They are the least studied and poorly known among all the amphibians. The highly secret life of these amphibians is one of the major reasons for the poor understanding of their biology. These mysterious amphibians have not been given adequate attention by the herpetologists of the past and the present. Even the basic information about caecilians in text books on amphibians is meagre and as elusive as these snaky predators. Caecilians are a fascinating group of animals with many unique morphological, anatomical and physiological features. Many of the features evolved in caecilians, like skin-feeding, sensory tentacles, dual jaw-closing mechanism, have no parallels among the vertebrates. But our knowledge of the systematics, ecology, population status, and diversity of these amphibians is not even satisfactory. The reputation for caecilians among common folk is as bad as that for snakes, due to the morphological similarity between the two groups. There is remarkable diversity but documentation of the basic aspects is poor, leading to lack of strategies for conserving these amphibians. In India, caecilians are distributed chiefly along the Western Ghats and the North East Hills. There are a few reports of caecilian presence in the Eastern Ghats. As of now, there are 36 caecilian species known from India. In this chapter, general introductory details about caecilians are dealt with, keeping south Western Ghats region falling under the Kerala state as the backdrop. Currently 13 species, belonging to Ichthyophiidae and Indotyphlidae families, are known from the forests and nearby anthropogenic habitats inside Kerala.

Keywords: Amphibia, anthrozoology, caecilians, diversity, Gegeneophis, Gymnophiona, Ichthyophiidae, Indotyphlidae, Ichthyophis, Kerala, limbless, myth, plantation, predators, snake-like, subterranean, taxonomy, Uraeotyphlus, worm-like, Western Ghats.

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