Monday, October 25, 2010

Creature Feature: Mexican Mole Lizard.

What do you get when you cross a worm and a lizard? Something like this:


The Mexican mole lizard (Bipes biporus) looks like a worm, acts like a worm, and, except for its two foreclaws, looks helluva lot like a worm. Like the tuatara, mole lizards aren't quite lizards. They are about as closely related to lizards as snakes are (which is fairly close), and boy, does it show.

Amphisbaena is the order of lizard-like reptiles (squamates) containing reptiles dubbed "worm lizards." The order name "amphisbaena" comes from a mythical serpent with a head at each end - a surprisingly universal motif in cultures around the world. The real lizards do not have two heads as the name implies, but they are legless and their heads resemble their tails (down to the head barely having eyes in some species). The exception to the rule of this already strange group of squamates is the ajolotes, the group that Bipes biporus belongs to.


All ajolotes are found only in Mexico and the lower parts of California. They are carnivorous, burrowing reptiles that use their forelimbs exactly like a mole's for digging. These things look almost exactly like mole paws, but wait. It gets weirder.

Unlike snakes, mole lizards move via peristalsis- the same scrunchy motion that worms use to move. They even have rings around their bodies like earthworms. They live and breed entirely underground and only come out when it rains or is dark, just like a real worm.

You know that giant worm monster that keeps appearing in your nightmares? Now that worms are vertebrates, it's possible, and has evolved killer claws to boot.

The future. Totally. 

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