With a sleek, eel-like body and beady eyes, the aquatic caecilian is quite an unusual amphibian. Amazonia recently welcomed four squirmy siblings to the Amphibian Alert exhibit. In this Q&A, animal keeper Denny Charlton shares some of his favorite fun facts and tips for visiting these wiggly wonders.
What do visitors most want to know about aquatic caecilians?
These animals are really interesting and bizarre-looking. They look like a cross between a snake and an eel, but they are neither. Just like frogs and salamanders, caecilians are amphibians. They are native to the Amazon River Basin in South America and spend their entire lives in the water.
What makes caecilians unique?
There are some key differences between caecilians and other species of amphibians. Many amphibians can exchange oxygen through their skin via a specialized membrane, but caecilians do not. Their skin is quite thick, and they must come to the surface to take breaths of air.
Our caecilians are five months old. Since they are juveniles, they take breaths more frequently, about every five to 10 minutes. Adults, however, can hold their breath between 20 to 30 minutes at a time.