False Blind Snakes: Anomochilidae

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False blind snakes are also known as dwarf pipe snakes because, at first glance, they look very much like small pipe snakes. Pipe snakes actually fall under a separate family, the Cylindrophiidae. The false blind snake has a short head and a short tail on either end of a tube-shaped body. In snakes, the tail is the portion of the body that begins at the vent, a crosswise opening on the belly side and toward the rear of a snake. On either side of the vent, these snakes have a tiny bit of bone that sticks out. These bones are called spurs and are seen in a few other snake families, including the boas.

Their backs are a dark reddish color blotched with yellowish white markings. The eyes and mouth in a false blind snake are small. In most snakes, the mouth opens at the very tip of the head, but in false blind snakes, it opens slightly before the end of the head. Both species in this family have seventeen to nineteen scale rows. In other words, if a person counted the number of scales in a straight line from the belly over the back the snake and back down to the belly, he or she would find seventeen to nineteen rows. The number of scales on the underside of the snake from front to back is between 222 and 252 in the false blind snake known as Anomochilus leonardi and between 236 and 248 in the snake Anomochilus weberi. The common name for both species is false blind snake. The short tail in both species only has six to eight scales on the underside.

Based on the specimens in museums, adult false blind snakes range from 8 to 14 inches (20 to 36 centimeters) in length. Scientists have studied only museum specimens rather than living snakes in the wild.


False blind snakes are found in Borneo, the Malaysian Peninsula, and Sumatra.


False blind snakes probably live in loose soil or under leaves, but this is uncertain. Only a few individuals have been found, and these have been spread out in such a way that some scientists now think that the two species are really just different populations of one species, while others believe that the snakes should be split into more than two species.


False blind snakes probably eat worms and insect larvae (LAR-vee), which may include grubs or caterpillars, but this is just a guess. No one has studied a live false blind snake. In addition, no researcher has found a dead one and opened up its stomach to see what it had been eating.


As humans build ships to travel to space or deep in the oceans, a wide variety of life forms go unnoticed beneath our feet. Many of the species that spend their lives out of view in underground tunnels or even just underneath piles of leaves are overlooked. The false blind snakes are a good example. Although they live over a large region in Indonesia, scientists have only found a few and have never studied a living specimen. The same holds true for many other underground species, which leaves wide open a huge area of study for future biologists.


Scientists have never studied a live false blind snake, so they know nothing about its behavior. They did, however, find one female that had shelled eggs still inside her. From this, they guessed that the species lays eggs. Snakes, however, fall into three groups. One of them is oviparous (oh-VIH-puh-rus), which means that the female produces and lays shelled eggs. The babies in the eggs get all their necessary food from inside the egg until they hatch. The second group is viviparous (vie-VIH-puh-rus), which means that the mother makes no eggs, provides all of the food for the babies through connections inside of her body, and gives birth to baby snakes. No eggs are involved. The third group is ovoviviparous (oh-voh-vie-VIH-puh-rus), which falls somewhere between oviparous and viviparous. The females in ovoviviparous species produce eggs, but the eggs hatch inside her body just before she gives birth. The babies, then, get food from the egg rather than directly from the mother, but are born as baby snakes. Only oviparous species are considered to be egg-layers. The other two groups are said to be live-bearing snakes, meaning that they give birth to baby snakes rather than eggs. Since scientists have only seen eggs in a dead female but have never seen one give birth, they cannot tell for sure whether this species is oviparous or ovoviviparous.


False blind snakes continue to live their lives outside the view of people.


The World Conservation Union (IUCN) considers the two false blind snakes to be Data Deficient, which means that scientists as yet have too little information to make a judgment about the threat of extinction.


Physical characteristics: The false blind snake has a tube-shaped body, a short head with small eyes and mouth, and a short tail. At first glance, it is difficult to tell which end is the head and which is the tail. It has small, oblong, whitish spots down its dark red to brown back. Adults range from 8 to 14 inches (20 to 36 centimeters) in length. The size range may change a bit once scientists study more false blind snakes.

Geographic range: False blind snakes live in the Malaysian Peninsula and Borneo.

Habitat: They probably live in loose soil or under leaves, but this is uncertain.

Diet: They probably eat invertebrates, which are insects, worms, and other animals without backbones.

Behavior and reproduction: False blind snakes are probably egg-layers, although this in uncertain. Their behavior and reproduction are unknown.

False blind snakes and people: People see this snake only very rarely and generally leave it alone.

Conservation status: The World Conservation Union (IUCN) considers the false blind snake to be Data Deficient, which means that scientists as yet have too little information to make a judgment about the threat of extinction. ∎



David, P., and G. Vogel. The Snakes of Sumatra. Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Edition Chimaira, 1996.

Greene, H. W. Snakes: The Evolution of Mystery in Nature. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

Mehrtens, John M. Living Snakes of the World in Color. New York: Sterling Publishing, 1987.

Web sites

"Family Anomochilidae (Dwarf Pipe Snakes)." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Anomochilidae.html (accessed on September 21, 2004).

"Pipe Snakes and Shield Snakes." Singapore Zoological Gardens. http://www.szgdocent.org/cc/c-pipe.htm (accessed on September 22, 2004).