Island Blind Snake

While hiking on the Sleeping Giant last night to look at the fire, I got to see Hawaii’s only established species of snake, the Island Blind Snake:


While I’ve often heard of it called a legless lizard, it appears to be a true snake. The one in the photo above is about the size of an earth-worm. You can even see the forked tongue in the photo. Here is a more complete description (source not for ophidiophobes):

Ramphotyphlops sp.

These tiny worm-like snakes have extremely reduced eyes evident only as tiny dots on the top of its head. The head is not set off from the body, and the short blunt snout must be carefully examined to distinguish it from the stub tail, which has a tiny spur-like scale on the tip. Most animals have a body girth comparable to that of a pencil lead, and the species rarely exceeds a few inches in length (maximum is about 1 foot). The color is often dull black or slate gray, but some individuals can be pinkish gray.

R. braminus is an inconspicuous snake known from many oceanic islands (e.g., throughout the Marianas, Carolines, and Hawaiian Islands, as well as many other areas of the tropics). It is an all-female species (i.e., the females lay eggs without benefit of mating with males), and thus every female could potentially found a new population. These snakes are commonly encountered in soil and litter and have colonized many oceanic islands when moved in the loose soil associated with potted plants. Other blind snakes might be encountered, but it will be difficult for anyone but a snake specialist to distinguish between these species. This harmless species and its relatives are predators of termites and ants, and are not considered to be threats to island ecosystems even as introduced species.

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  1. Mark says:

    The picture makes it look suspiciously like a slightly dry earthworm. If it didn’t have a forked tongue…

  2. Andy says:

    I was lucky to get the tongue in the picture, but you can also see the scales. It also moved like a snake by undulating, not by compressing its body like an earthworm. Overall, it was about 10 cm (4 in) long, and shooting with the macro setting with the flash in the dark, I never managed to get the head and the tail in the same picture.

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