AmphibiaWeb - Geotrypetes seraphini


(Translations may not be accurate.)

Geotrypetes seraphini (Duméril, 1859)
Gaboon Caecilian
family: Dermophiidae
genus: Geotrypetes
Geotrypetes seraphini
© 2014 Brian Freiermuth (1 of 10)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN Red List Status Account Least Concern (LC)
National Status None
Regional Status None
conservation needs Access Conservation Needs Assessment Report .


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Like all caecilians, Geotrypetes seraphini is blind (at least reduced vision) and limbless. Adult species can reach a length of about 400 mm and a diameter of 10 - 15 mm. They are a purplish-gray color and have superficial annulae due to the pull of muscle-connective tissue elements on the skin. They are a dark grey in color with light grey lines running from the lateral side of its body to the ventral side (Wake 1977).

The eyes are completely hidden under the skin and are near the edge of the upper lip. There are about 145 to 155 circular folds from the head to the tip of the caudal appendage (Duméril 1859).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Cameroon, Congo, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the, Cote d'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone

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View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.
amphibiandisease logo View Bd and Bsal data (12 records).
Geotrypetes seraphini is native to eastern Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Cameroon, Gabon, and western Democratic Republic of Congo and lives mainly underground in lowland forest. It can also be found in habitats that have been heavily degraded, including villages and near rice fields (Loader et al. 2004).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Geotrypetes seraphini has different methods for capturing prey, depending on how the prey is positioned. If Geotrypetes seraphini and the prey meet head on, the caecilian will bite repeatedly. If the prey is met laterally, Geotrypetes seraphini grabs it with its jaws, pulling the prey further into its burrow, and continues by spinning its body rapidly so that the walls of the burrow are used to damage the body further (Bennett and Wake 1974).

The snake Midon acanthias is known to prey on Geotrypetes seraphini by pursuing the caecilian a short distance into its burrow. In order to escape predation, Geotrypetes seraphini uses its burrow as a refuge and rapidly retreats deeper into it (Bennett and Wake 1974).

Geotrypetes seraphini is primarily dependent on an anaerobiosis process for energy production, and becomes fatigued within a couple of minutes of high levels of activity (Bennett and Wake 1974).

Geotrypetes seraphini is viviparous and does not depend on water for breeding (Loader et al. 2004). Female Geotrypetes seraphini can carry 3 - 4 fetuses in the oviducts. The gills of the fetus are resorbed shortly after emerging from the egg membrane. At birth, the fetus is approximately 73 - 77 mm in length, and about 32% of the total length of the mother. Adult female Geotrypetes seraphini have a high demand for nutrition; so anywhere from 24 to 44 mm of yolk can be resorbed. Fetuses have a characteristic intra-oviducal multi-rowed dentition with spoon-shaped tooth crowns, which are shed right before birth or soon after. These teeth then get replaced by recurved teeth with shallow labial cusps (Wake 1987), which are used to scrape algae from rocks and leaves (Wake 1977).

Trends and Threats
Geotrypetes seraphini is not considered threatened because of its large population sizes and slow decline. Geotrypetes seraphini can be found in degraded habitats because of its high tolerance to habitat modification. It also occurs in many areas that are protected such as the Tai National Park (Loader et al. 2004).

Relation to Humans
Geotrypetes seraphini has been found in the international pet trade, but trading does not seem to be a major threat to the species (Loader et al. 2004).

Geotrypetes is part of the family Dermophiidae, which also includes Dermophis, Gymnopis, and Schistometopum. The three species of Geotrypetes include angeli, pseudoangeli, and seraphini. Geotrypetes is the only caecilian family with the tentacle far forward, under the nostril (Wilkinson 2011).

Duméril named this species on behalf of Mr. Séraphin Poacher (Duméril 1859).

Geotrypetes seraphini is synonymous with Caecilia seraphini (Duméril 1859, Loader et al. 2004)

This species was featured in News of the Week November 27, 2023:

Amphibians are famous (or perhaps infamous) for their outsized genomes. Indeed, some salamanders have genomes up to 120 billion base pairs (120 GB) and, for comparison, the human genome is only 3 GB. Because large genomes are challenging to sequence, scientists have been slow to generate high-resolution genomes for amphibians. Recently Ovchinnikov et al. (2023) provided the second and third published high-resolution genomes for caecilians, specifically for Geotrypetes seraphini and Microcaecilia unicolor. By comparing the newly sequenced genomes with the first published caecilian genome (Rhinatrema bivittatum) and other vertebrate species, they made a number of interesting discoveries and observations. For example, the large genomes of caecilians are, not surprisingly, chock full of repeat sequences, which is typical of other taxa with extra-large genomes. However, whereas supersized salamander genomes are dominated by long terminal repeat (LTR) elements, those of caecilians are dominated by long interspersed elements (LINES), indicating that while both caecilians and salamanders have large genomes because of transposal elements (TEs) “gone wild”, this is not the result of failure to control a specific type of TE. Another finding is that the caecilian genomes have a large number of novel gene families (at least 1150) enriched for functions in olfaction and chemical signaling likely tied to their unique chemosensory tentacles as primary olfactory organs. Finally, the authors could find no evidence in caecilians of a developmental gene enhancer called ZRS that regulates the famous limb morphogenesis gene “Sonic Hedgehog”. Notably, snakes have been shown to have a mutant form of ZRS that, when inserted into mice, results in a limbless serpentized phenotype. The complete absence of the ZRS enhancer in caecilians implicates this gene in the convergent evolution of limblessness in caecilians and snakes. (Written by J McGuire)


Duméril, A.M.C. (1859). ''Reptiles et poissons de l’Afrique occidentale. Étude précédée de considérations générales sur leur distribution géographique. .'' Archives du Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle, 10, 137-268.

Loader, S., Rödel, M.-O., Wilkinson, M. (2004). Geotrypetes seraphini. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. Downloaded on February 2015.

Wake, M. H. (1977). ''Fetal maintenance and its evolutionary significance in the Amphibia: Gymnophiona.'' Journal of Herpetology, 11, 379-386.

Wake, M.H. (1987). ''A New Genus of African Caecilian (Amphibia: Gymnophiona).'' Journal of Herpetology, 21(1), 6-15.

Wake, M.H., Bennet, A.F (1974). ''Metabolic Correlates of Activity in the Caecilian Geotrypetes seraphini.'' Copeia, 1974(3), 764-769.

Wilkinson, M., San Mauro, D., Sherratt, E., Gower, D.J. (2011). "A nine-family classification of caeclians (Amphibia: Gymnophiona)." Zootaxa, 2874(1), 41-64. [link]

Originally submitted by: Tamar Garcia (first posted 2015-02-19)
Edited by: Ann T. Chang, Michelle S. Koo (2023-11-26)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2023 Geotrypetes seraphini: Gaboon Caecilian <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Jul 21, 2024.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2024. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 21 Jul 2024.

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