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Middle English amphibena, from Latin amphisbaena, from Greek amphisbaina : amphis, both ways (from amphi-, amphi-) + bainein, to go; see gw- in Indo-European roots
New Latin vermicularis, from Latin vermiculus, diminutive of vermis
1 a : resembling a worm in form or motion
English: Snake lizard
The jaw containing the poison is removed and triturated.
Animalia; Chordata / Vertebrata - Vertebrates; Reptilia - Reptiles; Amphisbaenia; Amphisbaenidae - Snake-Lizards
MURE, Pathogenesie Bresilienne, p. 261.
Description of the substance
Amphisbaenians are perhaps the least known of the reptiles, even more obscure than the tuatara. They are also known as "worm lizards", and constitute a suborder of their own within the Order Squamata (the lizards and snakes), but in appearance and structure are actually not closely related to the lizards. Amphisbaenians are normally two feet long at most and resemble giant earthworms, with the obvious difference that as vertebrates they have a bone structure. In this aspect they resemble the caecilians, their counterparts in the Class Amphibia. It is true that there are legless lizards, but the amphisbaenians also differ in having a reduced right lung, a much greater degree of bone in the skull as opposed to cartilage, which is more prevalent in lizard skulls, and scales which are arranged in rings around the body (hence the earthworm appearance). As with many burrowing animals, the eyes have become reduced to vestigial status.
There are 130 species of amphisbaenians, divided among four families: the Bipedidae, Trogonophidae, Rhineura and Amphisbaenidae. The three Bipedidae species have a pair of reasonably well-developed front legs near the head, but otherwise amphisbaenians have no external limbs visible. The name amphisbaenian, roughly translated, means "going both ways", a reference to the fact that some of these creatures can in fact move backwards and also to the difficulty in visually ascertaining at first glance which way round the creature is pointing.
Amphisbaenians are rarely seen in the pet trade, even among exotics: in fact I have never seen one offered for sale, either in a shop or at a fair. Come to think of it, I don't even recall seeing one at London Zoo or any other such institute. Part of this is probably due to their low display value: after all, a creature that spends all its time hidden in a substrate (literally burrowing, as opposed to the mere digging in of some lizards) is hardly likely to make a good talking point. Amphisbaenians are also not exactly common in nature: confined to tropical and sub-tropical parts of America and Africa, plus the south of Spain and Portugal, their lifestyle makes them hard to find, much less catch in numbers for the pet trade. But as in the case of caecilians, one might consider this a pity in some ways. The very lack of information we have on these strange reptiles will hopefully be a spur to some individuals to make further studies.
According to Mattison, care of captive amphisbaenians is actually fairly easy. The main requirement is a substrate several inches deep of sand, sandy soil or leaf-litter, depending on the creature's area of origin. A heat pad is placed under one end of the tank to allow limited thermoregulation. In some cases a flat rock with a moist area underneath is also provided. Food will be in the form of normal invertebrates - crickets, mealworms, waxworms and earthworms - dropped into the tank. These can be allowed to run about as the amphisbaenian will consume them from underneath the surface. For this reason, Mattison also warns that no other reptiles of any sort should be kept in a tank with an amphisbaenian, as the larger amphisbaenians are certainly carnivorous and will consume dead rodents or canned pet food. Rundquist recommends pinkie or furry mice offered every other week and once or twice a month supplemented with a liquid multivitamin at a dosage of 0.1 cc vitamins per 440 g body weight of captive. Lean beef or horsemeat is also apparently acceptable. He also warns against feeding frozen fish to amphisbaenians, a tendency he has noticed.
Appearance: Amphisbaenians are limbless squamates whoses pectoral and pelvic girdles have been significantly reduced or are absent. Usually they have a distinctly annulated pattern of scutellation and rather short tails. Amphisbaenids are adapted to a burrowing life style and accordingly, their skulls are heavily ossified and their brain is entirely surrounded by the frontal bones. In contrast to other limbless lizards or snakes, which have a reduced left lung, the right lung of amphisbaenians is reduced in size.
Size: The total body length ranges from 10 cm to about 70 cm.
Distribution: Mostly Africa and South America with a few species in Europe and North America.
Behavior: Burrowing; The blunt-cone or bullet-headed genera (e.g., Amphisbaena, Blanus, Cadea Zygaspis) burrow by simple head-ramming. The spade-snouted taxa (Leposternon, Monopeltis) tip the head downward, thrust forward, and then lift the head. The Iaterally compressed keeled-headed taxa (Anops, Ancylocranium) ram their heads forward, then alternately swing it to the teft and right (Zug 1993).
Reproduction: usually oviparous, but some are live-bearing (some Loveridgea and Monopeltis).