Last year, the Madeira River in Rondonia, Brazil was drained for a hydroelectric dam. At the very bottom, were six of these creatures, writhing about looking like penises, except that they’re all about 30 inches long. Now, biologists have confirmed that they are Atretochoana eiselti, an extremely rare species of caecilian with no known living population.
The A. eiselti were found last November, but the discovery was only made public after biologists confirmed the genus. Caecilians are limbless amphibians with rings like those of the earthworm. The A. eiselti is the largest tetrapod without lungs, breathing through its skin instead. It has fleshy dorsal fins on its back, and is thought to live in fast-flowing water.
It is classified as “Data Deficient” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature “in view of continuing uncertainties as to its extent of occurrence, status and ecological requirements.” There are only two preserved specimens of the species, and that is all the biologists had to work with. The only other reported sighting was in June 2011 near near Belém, Brazil, and never before.
But of course, you’re probably not here to find out what we know of this enigmatic creature (which is almost nothing anyway). You’re here for visual herpetology.
Julian Tupan, a biologist from Santo Antonio Energy, the company building the dam, told The Sun:
Of the six we collected, one died, three were released back into the wild and another two were kept for studies. Despite looking like snakes, they aren’t reptiles and are more closely related to salamanders and frogs. We think the animal breathes through its skin, and probably feeds on small fish and worms, but there is still nothing proven.The Amazon is a box of surprises when it comes to reptiles and amphibians. There are still much more to be discovered.
Must resist urge to draw googly eyes.
(via Digital Journal)