What the Hell is That? (Number 4 in a series, if you want to guess, don’t read below the image.)
This is a newly discovered animal in northern India. It was easy to discover, since it has no legs and thus can’t run away. It burrows though, like an earthworm, so scientists can be forgiven for overlooking it until now. I’m going to go out on a limb here and venture that no one guesses what this is, well, except maybe people who keep abreast of these things. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to,
So what is it? A worm of some sort would be the obvious guess. It looks like a worm, it’s segmented like a worm, it’s a worm, right? Nope, not a worm. OK then, a snake, right? Some sort of blind burrowing cave snake? Nope, not a snake. Not even a reptile. My clever readers with a biology background can stop looking smug now, not a reptile, which means it isn’t a burrowing legless lizard. Wait, an eel! Some sort of land eel! Nope, though that’s a good guess. I didn’t even know there were eels that could crawl onto land until I researched this post. Give up? At this point I’d be getting frustrated. No, it’s not some photo-shopped monstrosity. That would be cheating. Well, except maybe on April 1st. So what the hell is it?
This lovely mom and her brood are something completely new to me at least … this slimy little critter is a legless amphibian! Who knew? They are called caecilians. Wikipedia, in a moment of rare humour has this to say: “They mostly live hidden in the ground, making them the least familiar order of amphibians.” And mostly in the tropical Americas, Africa, and South Asia. This newly found caecilian lives in India. So I won’t be digging any up in Berkeley, and a good thing too. While some are as small as worms, they can get up to four feet long! And some of the big ones are aquatic, with a blunt fin to aid in swimming. And while they are legless, they aren’t blind, but their eyes are only good for telling night from day. And like all amphibians, which I’m sure everyone knew, they can absorb oxygen through its skin if need be. Breathing likely is tough when buried in mud.
So aside from the cool or ick factor depending on one’s druthers, any other point to this post? Not really. I might write a post on evolution someday, this would certainly be a good example. Caecilians evolved legs, then they lost them again. Also a fine example of parallel evolution, species of both lizards and amphibians independently lost their limbs and evolved into snake like creatures. Or more accurately, I might write a post someday about evolution vs. creationism. If I can think of an entertaining way to do so, since there’s not any real debate or controversy about them. Evolution is a well established scientific theory, creationism is faux science crafted to defend Biblical literalism.
Granted I am still having trouble grasping that in this day and age there are apparently intelligent people who actually believe that the Earth and the Universe itself are a few thousand years old, and it was all created over a period of six days by a supernatural being. Science is beginning to understand the mental gyrations people go through to maintain beliefs like this, but that still doesn’t help me much as all my brain can do when confronted by same is twitch and mutter “You’ve got to be kidding?” No, no, they aren’t kidding. And if their premise is true, why the hell did God create people who believe nonsense in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary? What’s the evolutionary advantage of that trait?
It’s to early to strain my brain with such thoughts, I’m going back to bed.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, it’s central to illustrating the post, and it’s properly attributed. Credit and copyright: S.D. Biju. I got it from this fine site. Sorry this post was a little short, it’s just something quick I knocked of because I think weird little animals are cool. The three year old in me has never grown up, and I hope he never does.)