Dermophis gracilior
family: Dermophiidae
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN (Red List) Status Data Deficient (DD)
Other International Status None
National Status None
Regional Status None



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Diagnosis: A relatively robust caecilian with plumbeous (lead-gray) dorsal color, visible eyes, and a head that does not contrast in color with the body (Savage 2002).

Description: Dermophis gracilior is moderately sized and measures up to 387 mm in total length. This is a somewhat robust species, with a total length-to-body width ratio from 23 to 34 in adults. Total annuli number 156 to 208, with 91 to 117 primary annuli and 65 to 96 secondary annuli. Dorsal surface is lead-gray color, while the venter is cream with dark mottling or mostly gray to dull black. The annular grooves are the same shade as adjacent areas (Savage 2002).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Costa Rica, Panama


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This species is distributed along the humid Pacific lowlands and premontane slopes of Costa Rica and western Panama (Savage 2002). It is also found in the premontane zone of the Costa Rican Atlantic slope and the southern lower montane belt of the Cordillera de Talamanca at elevations ranging from 400 to 2,000 m (Savage 2002). Dermophis gracilior lives under logs and surface debris in lowland moist forest, premontane wet forest and rainforest, and lower montane rainforest (Savage 2002).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
D. gracilior is known from only a few specimens, like most caecilians. This is a fossorial species which can sometimes be encountered on the surface and also under rotting logs and surface litter (Savage 2002). It eats mostly earthworms and termites along with other insect larvae and instars (Savage 2002). Development may be similar to Dermophis mexicanus in that it occurs within the maternal oviduct; the embryo utilizes yolk for nutrition before emerging from the egg membrane (Wake 1980). Fetuses have specialized teeth that are used to scrape the oviduct and stimulate specialized maternal secretions (Savage 2002). These teeth are spoon shaped with a single or double median spike; early in development the fetal teeth have a double spike, while later in development there is only a single tooth spike (Savage 2002). Two to sixteen offspring are produced in a litter, with neonates measuring 110 to 150 mm in total length (Savage 2002). Females are sexually mature at 300 mm or greater in total length (Savage 2002).

Trends and Threats
It occurs within at least two protected areas, the Estación Biológica Las Cruces (Costa Rica) and in Parque Internacional La Amistad (Panama). Habitat loss may threaten this species in parts of its range (Solís et al. 2008).

Possible reasons for amphibian decline

General habitat alteration and loss


This taxon may represent more than one species; see Savage (2002) for comments. It was removed from synonymy with Dermophis mexicanus by Savage and Wake (2001). It was first described by Günther (1902).

A Spanish-language species account can be found at the website of Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad (INBio).


Günther, A. C. L. G. (1902). ''Reptilia and Batrachia. Part 170.'' Biologia Centrali Americana. Volume 7 O. Salvin and F. D. Godman , eds., R. H. Porter and Dulau & Co., London.

Savage, J. M. (2002). The Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica:a herpetofauna between two continents, between two seas. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois, USA and London.

Savage, J. M., and Wake, M. H. (2001). ''Reevaluation of the status of taxa of Central American caecilians (Amphibia: Gymnophiona) with comments on their origin and evolution.'' Copeia, 2001(1), 52-64.

Solís, F., Ibáñez, R., Chaves, G., Savage, J., Jaramillo, C., Fuenmayor, Q., Wilkinson, M., and Bolaños, F. (2008). Dermophis gracilior. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.1. Downloaded on 13 May 2010.

Wake, M.H. (1980). "Reproduction, growth, and population structure of the Central American caecilian Dermophis mexicanus (Amphibia: Gymnophiona)." Herpetologica, 36, 244-256.

Written by David Chen (davidchen AT, University of California, Berkeley
First submitted 2009-11-04
Edited by Kellie Whittaker (2010-05-17)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2010 Dermophis gracilior <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed May 29, 2020.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2020. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 29 May 2020.

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