Friday Fellow: ‘Soft Snake’

by Piter Kehoma Boll

Our Friday Fellow today was chosen because it was seen in the last days in Brazilian news websites and blogs. Its name is Atretochoana eiselti and it is a rare species of caecilian amphibian found in Brazil. One of its main pecularities is that it lacks any lungs and,  being about 80 cm long, it’s the largest lungless tetrapod known.

Atretochoana eiselti found in the Madeira River on July 31, 2012. Photo by Juliano Tupan. Extracted from wikipedia.

Initially it was known from a single specimen found in 1968, until a second one was found in 1998. As with all caecilians, it lacks legs and has very reduced eyes. Very little is known about it yet, but it seems to be mostly aquatic in its habits rather than terrestrial as most caecilians, which is somewhat supported by the presence of a small dorsal fin.

After the two original specimens, new ones were only found in 2011 in the Madeira River, Brazil. Those were the first individuals reported in their natural habitat, but, unusually, this river has warmer waters than expected for a species which lacks lungs, since warmer water has less oxygen.

During 2012, more specimens were found in the same river. Now let’s hope that, knowing their natural habitat, we will be able to decipher some of the mysteries still sorrounding this unusual creature.

– – –


Hoogmoed, M. S.; Maciel, A. O. and Coragem, J. T. (2011). Discovery of the largest lungless tetrapod, Atretochoana eiselti (Taylor, 1968) (Amphibia: Gymnophiona: Typhlonectidae), in its natural habitat in Brazilian Amazonia Boletim do Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi : Ciências Naturais, 6 (3), 241-262

Wikipedia. Atretochoana. Available online at <>. Access on August 2, 2012.

Wilkinson, M.; Sebben, A; Schwartz, E. N. F. and Schwartz, C. A. 1998. The largest lungless tetrapod: report on a second specimen of Atretochoana eiselti (Amphibia: Gymnophiona: Typhlonectidae) from Brazil Journal of Natural History, 32, 617-627 DOI: 10.1080/00222939800770321

Ximenes, M. 2012. Anfíbio com formato de cobra é descoberto no Rio Madeira, em RO. G1. Access on August 2, 2012.


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Filed under Conservation, Friday Fellow

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