Alfred's Striped Caecilian
Species Description: Mathew R, Sen N 2009 Studies on caecilians (Amphibia: Gymnophiona: Ichthyophiidae) of North East India with description of three new species of Ichthyophis from Garo Hills, Meghalaya and additional information on Ichthyophis garoensis Pillai & Ravichandran, 1999. Rec Zool Survey India, Occ Papar 309:1-56.
Ichthyophis alfredii are caecilians with a large, supple body. Total adult length is between 282 - 330 mm and juvenile total length is between 176 - 193 mm. The holotype is 330 mm in total length. The head is flat, pointed, and longer in length than width. The greatest width of the head is at the occiput. The depth of the head is deeper at the 2nd nuchal groove than at the 1st. The premaxillary teeth have a count of 34 - 40. The prevomero-palatine, dentary, and splenial teeth all have a range in number from 32 - 40. The eyes are distinct and located slightly above the level of the nostrils. The distance between each of the eyes is almost double the distance from the eyes to the jaw angle. The distance from the eyes to the margin of the upper lip is slightly larger than the distance from the nostril to the upper lip. The eye and snout tip are a large distance apart, with the snout projecting slightly beyond the mouth. The tentacular aperture is closer in distance to the eye than to the nose. The distance from the tentacles to the snout and jaw angle is slightly smaller than the distance between the tentacles themselves. The distance from the tentacle to the snout is larger than the distance from the tentacle to the margin of the upper lip. The distance between the nostrils is smaller than the distance from the nostrils to the eye. The rostral region is concave. The collars are prominent with the 1st and 2nd collar being the same length. The distance between the jaw angle and the 1st nuchal groove is slightly less than half the distance from the tip of the lower jaw to the jaw angle. The 1st nuchal groove is distinct in the lateral and ventral views, but incomplete in the dorsal view. The 2nd nuchal groove is distinct in the ventral view, but faint in the lateral and not found in the dorsal. The 3rd nuchal groove is distinct in the dorsal and lateral views, but incomplete in the ventral. The 2nd collar has one dorsal transverse groove. The body of I. alfredii has folds that follow a regular pattern with scales present on all annuli. Ichthyophis alfredii have around 269 - 299 dorsal annuli and 262 - 295 ventral annuli. The dorsal annuli follow a wavy arrangement with the annuli being angled in the ventral view, becoming less angled towards the posterior. On the holotype, the primary and secondary annuli have 299 dorsal and 292 ventral folds. The width of the midbody is almost double the width at the anterior of the vent. The average annuli width at the mid-body for the holotype was 12.90 mm. The vent and post-vent annuli are both broken by six annuli. Additionally, there is a disc, which is wider in length than long, that surrounds the post-vent. Anteriorly, the vent is overhung, with part of the genitalia being exposed by the aperture. The tail becomes narrow at the tip, which is pointed (Mathew and Sen 2009).
There were two juvenile paratypes, one that measured 176 and another 193 mm. Both paratypes had a flat head and an unclear 2nd nuchal groove. Their ear opening was clear, spoon-shaped, and had an elongated region that extended towards the 2nd nuchal groove, which itself is in the 2nd collar. The gular region did not have a distinctive “arrow shape” like the holotype. On the anterior side, the vent was overhung and the genitalia was exposed by the aperture (Mathew and Sen 2009).
There are three other Ichthyophis species besides I. alfredii found in northeast India: I. garoensis, I. daribokensis, and I. nokrensis. These species are in sympatry with I. alfredii and can be distinguished from each other by many characteristics. Ichthyophis alfredii is most similar to I. garoensis, but can be distinguished by the latter having larger ratios of distance between the eye to tentacle, eye to snout tip, snout to 1st nuchal groove, tentacle to nostril, and the length of the disc around the vent. Ichthyophis daribokensis can be differentiated from the I. alfredii and I. garoensis, by the former not having a flat head. However, all three share an arched nuchal region and a broad lateral stripe with an even border. Ichthyophis nokrekensis can be distinguished from the other three by its uneven border around its lateral stripe and a strongly arched nuchal region (Mathew and Sen 2009).
Juveniles of this species did not have a spatulate head, ventral position of the mouth and nostrils, compressed caudal fin, and a ridge on the dorsolateral and ventral meridian as found in juvenile I. daribokensis (Mathew and Sen 2009).
The dorsal region is a lavender color with the sub-dorsal region being a paler shade. There is a wide, cream-colored, lateral stripe that separates the dorsal and ventral sides of the species. This stripe extends anteriorly and reaches the tip of the lower jaw, but does not include the mental region and parts of the upper jaw. The stripe expands at the collar creating an arrow-shape at the gular region. The cream-colored stripe is found below the vent, but does not touch the tail. The eyes are a white color. It is unclear whether this color description was collected in life or preservative (Mathew and Sen 2009).
There were five paratypes examined, three adults and two metamorphosing juveniles, all of which varied from the adult holotype. The adult paratypes shared the same general external morphology to the holotype, however, there was variance number of annuli. These juveniles had external ear openings (Mathew and Sen 2009).
Distribution and Habitat
The distribution of this species is in the Garo Hills in the state of Meghalaya, which is a mountainous range in northeastern India. The specimens of I. alfredii were found at an altitude of 1119 m above the mean sea level. The holotype and four paratypes were found in the Nokrek Biosphere Reserve at the Daribokgre IB compound and another paratype was found at the Rongbang, 1.5 km away from Chinapat at 416 m (Mathew and Sen 2009).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
The specimens were collected by researchers digging out the stony forest floor. One of the paratypes was found in a different locality, which was near a paddy field by the Rongram river at Rongbang (Mathew and Sen 2009).
The stony forest floor habitat was shared by another caecilian species, Typhlops diardii (Mathew and Sen 2009).
Two water snakes (Xenochrophis piscator) were found inhabiting the same environment as the Rongbang paratype of I. alfredii (Mathew and Sen 2009).
Ichthyophis alfredii vocalized an audible ‘purr’ or ‘grunt'. This was mostly likely due to the stress from being handled (Mathew and Sen 2009).
Ichthyophis alfredii was named to honor Dr. J.R.B Alfred, who was the former director of the Zoological Survey of India in Kolkata (Mathew and Sen 2009).
The suggested common name for this species is Alfred’s striped Caecilian (Mathew and Sen 2009).
Mathew, R. and Sen, N. 2009. Studies on Caecilians (Amphibia: Gymnophiona: Ichthyophiidae) of North East India with description of three new species of Ichthyophis from Garo Hills, Meghalaya and additional information on Ichthyophis garoensis Pillai and Ravichandran, 1999. Rec. zool. Surv. India, Occ. Paper No., 309: 1-56. (Published by the Director, Zool. Surv. India, Kolkata)
Originally submitted by: Arjun Mehta (2021-08-20)
Description by: Arjun Mehta (updated 2021-08-20)
Distribution by: Arjun Mehta (updated 2021-08-20)
Life history by: Arjun Mehta (updated 2021-08-20)
Comments by: Arjun Mehta (updated 2021-08-20)
Edited by: Ann T. Chang (2021-09-23)
Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2021 Ichthyophis alfredi: Alfred's Striped Caecilian <https://amphibiaweb.org/species/7421> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Nov 28, 2021.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2021. <https://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 28 Nov 2021.
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