(ORDO NEWS) — DNA analysis has confirmed that an eel-like creature pulled from a Florida canal two years ago is a caecilian, popularly known as the “penis snake.” Apparently, these amphibians have taken root and feel good in the waters of the United States.
Because of their unusual appearance, Americans often joke about how much these creatures look like male genitalia.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first documented case of a worm not only found in Florida, but anywhere else in the United States,” scientists write in a study published in the summer of 2021 in the journal Reptiles & Amphibians .
A 60 cm long specimen was caught by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission in channel C-4 on November 7, 2019.
Commission personnel were conducting a routine canal survey and accidentally discovered a live specimen in shallow water near Miami International Airport.
In the end, the animal died in captivity, as attempts to feed it were unsuccessful. The specimen was then sent to the Florida Museum of Natural History for further analysis, where geneticists identified the species as Typhlonectes natans.
DNA analysis helped distinguish this specimen from the similar species Typhlonectes compressicauda, which is widespread in South America. Typhlonectes natans, in turn, come from Colombia and Venezuela.
It would seem that we are talking about a random “immigrant”. However, after capturing the worm, the commissioners caught several more specimens, and also received repeated reports of the appearance of “penis snakes” in channel C-4.
Worms are promiscuous in food, they do not disdain carrion and prey on many small animals. One species of terrestrial worm, Siphonops annulatus, can even be poisonous to humans.
In the Western Hemisphere, their range extends north to southern Mexico, and caecilians can also be found in tropical parts of Africa and Southeast Asia. These animals prefer sedentary warm and shallow water bodies with aquatic vegetation.
It turned out that Florida is the perfect place for strange worm-like creatures. As for how the worms got into the Miami Canal, researchers suspect the most obvious is that someone simply got rid of the exotic pets by throwing them into the waters of the canal.
The assumption is not devoid of logic, since Typhlonectes natans is the species that is most often acquired as a pet, which is also able to breed in captivity.
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