Caecilians – The Limbless Elusive Amphibians: In the Backdrop of Kerala Region of the Western Ghats
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Ramachandran Kotharambath, Reston S. Beyo, Lekha Divya, Mohammed A. Akbarsha and Oommen V. Oommen
Caecilians, the limbless subterranean amphibians, are an enigmatic group of
animals inhabiting the tropical and subtropical regions representing less than 3% of all the
extant amphibians. They are the least studied and poorly known among all the amphibians.
The highly secret life of these amphibians is one of the major reasons for the poor
understanding of their biology. These mysterious amphibians have not been given adequate
attention by the herpetologists of the past and the present. Even the basic information about
caecilians in text books on amphibians is meagre and as elusive as these snaky predators.
Caecilians are a fascinating group of animals with many unique morphological, anatomical
and physiological features. Many of the features evolved in caecilians, like skin-feeding,
sensory tentacles, dual jaw-closing mechanism, have no parallels among the vertebrates.
But our knowledge of the systematics, ecology, population status, and diversity of these
amphibians is not even satisfactory. The reputation for caecilians among common folk is as
bad as that for snakes, due to the morphological similarity between the two groups. There is
remarkable diversity but documentation of the basic aspects is poor, leading to lack of
strategies for conserving these amphibians. In India, caecilians are distributed chiefly along
the Western Ghats and the North East Hills. There are a few reports of caecilian presence in
the Eastern Ghats. As of now, there are 36 caecilian species known from India. In this
chapter, general introductory details about caecilians are dealt with, keeping south Western
Ghats region falling under the Kerala state as the backdrop. Currently 13 species, belonging
to Ichthyophiidae and Indotyphlidae families, are known from the forests and nearby
anthropogenic habitats inside Kerala.
Amphibia, anthrozoology, caecilians, diversity, Gegeneophis,
Gymnophiona, Ichthyophiidae, Indotyphlidae, Ichthyophis, Kerala, limbless, myth, plantation, predators, snake-like, subterranean, taxonomy, Uraeotyphlus, worm-like,
Department of Zoology, Government College Chittur, Palakkad, Kerala, 678104, India