Kerala Caecilians: Uraeotyphylidae

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KERALA CAECILIANS: Uraeotyphylidae



Kerala caecilians (sih-SILL-yuhns) are small to medium-sized caecilians. Their upper jaw is much longer than the lower jaw, so the mouth opens on the bottom of the head. This type of jaw makes the animals good burrowers. Red caecilians have a short tail and small eyes. The tentacle openings are far forward of the eye, below the nostrils.

Caecilians look like earthworms. A series of rings runs the length of the body starting just behind the head. The rings are inside the body and attached to the vertebrae (VER-teh-bree), or the bones that make up the spinal column. Kerala caecilians have two rings per vertebra (VER-teh-bruh, the singular of vertebrae). The skin is folded over the rings, making grooves between the rings. The grooves of Kerala caecilians do not go all the way around the body. The second set of rings makes shallower grooves than the main set. Kerala caecilians have a large number of scales under the skin of the grooves.

Kerala caecilians are either nearly solid dark gray or dark gray with a whitish to yellowish cream belly. Newly transformed young Kerala caecilians and adults are 6 to 12 inches (14.5 to 30 centimeters) long.


Kerala caecilians live in the Western Ghats, which are mountains in Kerala State, which is in southern India.


Kerala caecilians live in moist soil and leaf litter in rainforests and areas that have been cleared of trees within the rainforest region. These animals usually are found in moist soil near streams, marshes, and other bodies of water.


Kerala caecilians eat earthworms and insects.


Kerala caecilians dig burrows. Other than that, scientists do not know how Kerala caecilians behave or reproduce. They believe these caecilians are egg layers and that they hatch looking like small adults rather than as larvae. Larvae (LAR-vee) are animals in an early stage that change body form in a process called metamorphosis (MEH-tuh-MORE-feh-sis) before becoming adults. However, larvae of at least one species, red caecilians, have been found, which suggests that the other species also may have larvae.


Kerala caecilians have no known importance to people.


Kerala caecilians are not considered threatened or endangered.


Physical characteristics: Red caecilians have a somewhat thick body and are 7 to 12 inches (18 to 30 centimeters) long. They are solid dark bluish gray and slightly paler on the belly. Red caecilians have 98 to 107 rings in the main set and 89 to 104 rings in the second set. They have a large number of scales in the ring folds.

Geographic range: Red caecilians live in Kerala, India.

Habitat: Red caecilians live in moist soil and forest floor litter in and near rainforests.

Diet: Scientists believe red caecilians eat earthworms and insects.

Behavior and reproduction: Scientists believe red caecilians are burrowers. They are not sure how these caecilians mate. The larvae go through metamorphosis when they are about 3.5 inches (9 centimeters) long.

Red caecilians and people: Red caecilians have no known importance to people.

Conservation status: Red caecilians are not considered threatened or endangered. ∎



Duellman, William E., and Linda Trueb. Biology of Amphibians. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994.

Lamar, William W. The World's Most Spectacular Reptiles and Amphibians. Tampa, FL: World, 1997.

Lawlor, Elizabeth P. Discover Nature in Water and Wetlands. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2000.

Llamas Ruiz, Andres. Reptiles and Amphibians: Birth and Growth. New York: Sterling, 1996.

Petranka, J. W. Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998.

Web sites:

"Caecilian." Animal Bytes. (accessed on April 11, 2005).

Hawes, Alex. "On Waterdogs, Mudpuppies, and the Occasional Hellbender." Zoogoer. (accessed on April 11, 2005).

Summers, Adam. "Squeeze Play." Natural History. (accessed on April 11, 2005).