Meet Rhineura floridana, the Florida Worm Lizard. I'm betting you have never seen this animal before. One reason for that would be this little fact from Floridata:
"The Florida worm lizard is the only amphisbanian native to the United States. Other, distantly related, species occur in Africa and Central and South America. Fossils tell us that the closest relative of the Florida worm lizard lived in the North American Great Plains 25 million years ago. They have since gone extinct everywhere except central Florida."
I had never seen one until I bought Pure Florida HQ and was rototilling a garden plot and up came this amazingly pink "worm" which of course was NOT a worm. That was about 20 years ago and since then I've only seen two others.
While rare in the big picture ... North America, they are probably not that rare here in north central Florida, just small, secretive, and of course ... subterranean.
Last Saturday, I was out turning up some soil in a flower bed and up came this pink fellow in a spadeful of Florida sand. I kept him overnight for a photo session and then released him back into his world where he can continue his hunt for termites and real earthworms. He was very wiggly and surprisingly fast. Holding still just did not happen, but I managed to get a few shots to share with you.
It's amazing (do I use that word too much here? I'm just constantly amazed at the life around me here in Pure Florida ... I just can't help myself) how much he resembles an earthworm at first glance. He's a clever design with his rings of scales, spade shaped head, and mouth tucked underneath. Pretty amazing. (oops!)
Lately, I've had some neat encounters with the sub set. You may remember the photos of the pocket gopher ... another underground dweller I had never seen in person until recently. Since then, I engineered several encounters with the gopher and was rewarded with more photos and even some video.
It's pretty fascinating, this unseen world of diggers, tillers, tunnelers, and mounders.