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What's a Caecilian? Virginia Zoo's Newest Baby


"This is the first Caecilian born at the Virginia Zoo," said Craig Pelke, Birds and Cctotherms Curator at the Virginia Zoo. Resembling large earthworms or small snakes, Caecilians completely lack limbs and swim like an eel. Their skin is smooth and a dark-matte blue-grayish-brown in color. Their eyes are small and covered by skin for protection; Caecilians have poor eyesight, which is limited to light and dark perception, but have a great sense of smell.

Just over 6 inches long (15.2 cm), the baby Caecilian has been moved off exhibit to a separate holding tank away from the adults. It's still too early to tell if it is male or female. "We first brought them here in 2008 to help celebrate the Year of the Frog and we recently acquired 4 juveniles from the Turtleback Zoo in West Orange, New Jersey."

"When it gets closer to adult size, we'll move it back on exhibit, but that could be months," said Martha Hamilton, a zookeeper who cares for the Caecilians.

This species fo Caecilian, the Rio Cauca (Typhlonectes natans), is also referred to as "blue worms." They are aquatic amphibians that give live birth in the water. They range from western and northern Colombia to the Lake Maracaibo Basin in Venezuela, where they live in drainage systems, rivers, marshes and lakes, thriving in polluted water.


Photo Credit: Winfield Danielson/Virginia Zoo