Scolecomorphus vittatus (Boulenger, 1895)
© 2016 Dr. Joachim Nerz (1 of 13)
This species is brightly colored for a caecilian; it is not known whether the coloration is aposematic. The venter is bright red to pink. A dark stripe (black, dark brown, or purple) is present on the dorsum. The chin area is darker brown to pink. The vent area is pink or cream (Harper and Vonesh 2003).
A juvenile specimen has been described by Loader et al. (2003). This specimen was collected in 1973 in the North Pare Mountains, Tanzania, from a locality where the only known caecilian species is S. vittatus; it was dug out from rich, moist soil in a banana/coffee plantation. The specimen measured 72 mm in length, placing it as a juvenile; it is poorly ossified and may be a newborn. Environmental debris consisting of mineral and soil particles was found to be present in the hindgut. The juvenile specimen lacks secondary annuli and has a terminal shield and a longitudinal vent, as would be expected for Scolecomorphus. It also has a number of features that are not present in adult Scolecomorphus: paraoral processes on the cheeks that form lateral expansions of the upper jaws, border a ventral concavity on the snout, and also bear a few extraoral monocuspid teeth that lie outside of the mouth and point upward and outward; very flexible articulation of the mandible with the cranium; heterogeneous dentition with single rows of adult-like monocuspid teeth in addition to several supernumerary teeth (of which some are bicornute); and a concavity on the underside of the throat in the second nuchal collar, bordered by longitudinal ventrolaterally directed rostral ridges that terminate at the posterior margin of the second nuchal collar in what looks like a fleshy nipple. Although the presence of marginal tooth rows with larger adult-type teeth and smaller supernumerary teeth with occasional bicornute crowns is typical of newborns of other viviparous caecilians (Wake 1977), the extraoral teeth of this specimen are not of the "fetal type" and are located on the upper jaw, unlike any other caecilian specimen reported (Loader et al. 2003). The snout shape is somewhat different than that of adults, being more wedge-shaped with a more pointed snout tip than the bluntly rounded subconical snouts typical of adult scolecomorphids (Loader et al. 2003).
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Tanzania, United Republic of
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
A study conducted of S. vittatus and Boulengerula boulengeri in the Nilo Forest Reserve, East Usambara Mountains, found that S. vittatus was almost always collected above ground, in contrast to B. boulengeri (Gower et al. 2004). Specimens of S. vittatus spotted by visual encounter were found mostly during the day after periods of rain (Gower et al. 2004).
The diet consists primarily of large, surface-active earthworms; soil arthropods are also consumed but in lower numbers, including ants of the family Myrmicinae (Jones et al. 2006). Harper and Vonesh (2003) mention that in the East Usambara Mountains S. vittatus is known colloquially as the Queen of the Ants, as it has been observed at the front of a trail of ants without being attacked by the ants.
This species is parasitized by oxyurid nematodes (Jones et al. 2006).
Trends and Threats
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Gower, D. J., Loader, S.P., Wilkinson, M. and Moncrieff, C.B. (2004). ''Niche separation and comparative abundance of Boulengerula boulengeri and Scolecomorphus vittatus (Amphibia: Gymnophiona) in East Usambara forest, Tanzania.'' African Journal of Herpetology, 53, 183-190.
Harper, E., and Vonesh, J. R. (2003). Field Guide to the Amphibians of the East Usambara Mountains: Preliminary Draft. Unpublished report, available in .pdf format at www.tropical-biology.org
Howell, K. M., Ngalason, W., and Werema, C. (2006). Eastern Arc Mountains: Assessment of Forest Reserve Values for Endemic and Near Endemic Vertebrate Species: Amphibians and Birds. A Consultancy Report of the Department of Zoology & Wildlife Conserva. Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Forestry and Beekeeping Division, Tanzania.
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Loader, S., Howell, K., Gower, D., and Measey, J. 2004. Scolecomorphus vittatus. In: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2. www.iucnredlist.org. Downloaded on 22 February 2010.
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Vestergaard, M. (1994). An annotated and illustrated checklist of the amphibians of the Usambara Mountains, with a tentative key and the description of two new taxa. Cand. scient. Thesis, Zoological Museum, University of Copenhagen.
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Originally submitted by: Peera Chantasirivisal (first posted 2005-09-27)
Edited by: Kellie Whittaker (2010-02-22)
Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2010 Scolecomorphus vittatus: Banded Caecilian <https://amphibiaweb.org/species/2024> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Dec 5, 2023.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2023. <https://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 5 Dec 2023.
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