Prehistoric worm-like animal discovered in Miami: it first appeared in the USA
A strange worm-like amphibian has been found in the Tamiami Canal, according to a new report from the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville. This is the first find of this creature in the United States. Writes about it Miami Herald.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission officers recently stumbled upon one of the unidentified legless creatures in a canal about a mile south of Miami International Airport. The scientists used DNA testing to identify the sample, whose name comes from the Latin word caecum, which means blind, due to their small or non-existent eyes. Amphibians called caecilians, or broad-headed worms, have sensory "tentacles" located on their heads that help them find food.
Aquatic worm-like animals without limbs belong to the ancient order of amphibians, which existed even before the appearance of dinosaurs.
The species that was discovered in Miami is Rio Cauca caecilian, or Typhlonectes natans, native to Colombia and Venezuela. Sometimes incorrectly called rubber eels, they are the most common caecilians among pets and may have been thrown away by an owner who was no longer able to care for them.
Experts say it is too early to predict the possible impact of these creatures on the ecosystem.
"Very little is known about these animals in the wild, but there is nothing particularly dangerous about them, and they do not appear to be serious predators," said Coleman Sheehy, manager of the museum's herpetology collection. - They probably eat small animals, and they will be eaten by larger ones. It could be another non-native species. "
Shihi said he first learned about the worm when, in 2019, FWC officers, perplexed by a two-foot animal they caught in shallow water during a routine survey of the Tamiami Canal, sent him a photo. After dying in captivity, the worm was sent to the Florida Museum for analysis.
Little is known about this group of animals, as many caecilians spend their lives in burrows underground. They can be of different sizes depending on the species - from a few inches to five feet in length (1,5 m). These amphibians are found in southern Mexico, as well as in parts of Africa and Southeast Asia.
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The fact that he was found in the canal area in Miami shocked everyone.
“I didn't even think that we would ever find this worm in Florida. So it was a huge surprise, ”Sheehi said.
Upon discovery, the museum manager received several other reports of caecilians in the channel and will conduct field research there to find more and try to sort out the situation.
“At this point, we really don't know enough to tell if the caecilians really live in the canal,” he explained. "This is what we want to know."
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