Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Florida Worm Lizard ... I Told You It Was PInk.

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.

Up here on the green side of the lawn, I can imagine the creeping life beneath my feet, all those silent subterranean inhabitants of Pure Florida.
Standing on my porch seems a bit like being in a boat on the Gulf. I get that same sense of wonder when I think about what might be passing beneath me at that moment.
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pissed off patricia said...

This is the first one that I've ever seen. Pretty little thing.

Laura said...

With all the digging I do in the garden, I'll have to keep an eye out for them. I don't think I've ever seen them before. It's interesting that they eat termites. Seems to me we should be cultivating all the termite eating little buggers we can find!

robin andrea said...

That is the coolest little creature. A worm lizard? Who would have guessed such fine little pink thing is creeping and crawling out of sight. It never occurred to me to consider all the life wriggling around underground all the time. It's a whole new world!

Hal at Ranch Ramblins said...

It looks like you need a pretty keen eye to differentiate this from an earthworm as you work in the garden. You present an interesting perspective on the subterranean life dwelling beneath our feet. Like Robin Andrea, I had never considered this concept.

threecollie said...

Of course I am green with envy at your little pink herptile. I am not at all jealous of your rattlesnakes, but that is a pretty cool little critter.

rcwbiologist said...

Please, keep being "amazed" for all of us. that's a cool little lizard. It kind of reminds me in physical appearance (not color) of a southeastern crowned snake.

Cathy said...

Oh, go ahead and use that appropriate word 'amazing'. It don't think you've overworked it here.

Tell you what, FC - that analogy - the experience of standing on your porch as being not unlike floating above the Gulf and its marine mysteries - mighty fine.

swamp4me said...

Most definitely amazingly awesome.

Deb said...

I often forget, here in the frozen (but thawing) North, that the soil is literally teeming with life. Thanks for amazing me with the worm lizard.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

This thing that looks like a worm and slithers like a worm isn't a worm? Live and learn, I always say.

Floridacracker said...

Happy to share.

It's true we should breed these guys!

I think those birds we love know about them. Glad you liked him!

It occurs to me that it's extremely busy down there.

I know you expect pink flamingoes here, but we even have pink worm lizards.
... and green leaves ;)

Will do... the amazement thing.

I'm amazed a poet would notice my words. Thank you.

Welcome back! I thought you'd appreciate this little fellow.

I guess this guy would have a hard time in the frozen Minnesotarctican semipermafrost.

Sometimes a worm is just a worm, ...

Sandy said...

This pink worm lizard is really amazing and I'll probably never see one. Thanks for sharing such an interesting find.

Floridacracker said...

You're welcome! Most Floridians will never see one either!

kathy cooper said...

Well, I guess it has been over 6 years sense the last sighting! I am a Floridian, (another extinct creature), and this is my first in 50+ years. slithering across my driveway, was one of these strange things. about 10"-12" long. strange but true.