Gymnopis multiplicata

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Geographic Range

Gymnophis multiplicata is found in tropical forests of countries along the equator. This includes Central and South America, Central Africa, and Southern Asia.

Habitat

Gymnophis multiplicata is found in tropical forests burrowing up to three meters below ground.

Physical Description

The most distinguishing characteristic of all caecilians is their limbless, worm-like bodies. This caecilian reaches about 30 centimeters, or one foot, in length and is dark purple, almost black, in color with about 100 or so grooves encircling its body. It has very tiny eyes with sensory tentacles, each between one eye and one nostril. This tentacle can retract when it is not in use. It also has well-developed jaws and teeth, which distinguishes it from a very large earthworm. Caecilians also have scales embedded in their skin.

Development

Reproduction

The sexes look alike externally. The male, unlike the other amphibians, have a concealed organ for the direct passage of semen into the body of the female. After internal fertilization, the larvae are born in water and have external gills, which they lose at metamorphosis into adults. At this point, they can drown if they remain underwater.

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

Behavior

Caecilian behavior is not well known. They are not a well-studied order due to difficulty of finding them in their well-hidden burrows. They are thought to be solitary, coming together to mate but courtship rites and estrus cycles are also not known. The young are also thought to be rather precocial when born, with the mother not caring for them after birth. They stay underground until heavy rains drive them to the surface, presumably to avoid drowning.

Food Habits

This Caecilian’s diet ranges from worms, caterpillars, termites, and small burrowing snakes that it catches while burrowing through the earth.

Conservation Status

Because caecilians are not well-studied, their risk of extinction is not known. However, they may be affected by rain forest destruction.

Other Comments

It has been thought that Caecilians were the sister group of the other lissamphibians, the frogs and salamanders. Molecular data, however, places them to closer to salamanders than to frogs. It was also commonly believed that all amphibians are descended from the fossil amphibians, the Temnospondyls. It is now being suggested that only frogs are descended from the Temnospondyls and salamanders and caecilians descended from the Microsaurs. This is still highly controversial as it is contradicted by traditional morphology.

Contributors

Amy Young (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Dea Armstrong (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

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bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

ectothermic

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

metamorphosis

A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

rainforest

rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

References

1994. Caecilian. Pp. Vol 4, 132-133 in Scientific American.

Barbour, T. 1926. Reptiles and Amphibians: Their Habits and Adaptations. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Sheps, J. 1997. "Caecilian Taxonomy. University of Glasgow, IBLS Division of Molecular Genetics" (On-line). Accessed (Date Unknown) at http://www.ibls.gla.ac.ulc/IBLS/staff/bl-cohen/sheps.html.