Kodagu striped Ichthyophis

A stripy amphibian native to the Ghats of India

G. Bhatta

The Kodagu striped Ichthyophis, specifically Ichthyophis kodaguensis, is a fascinating and relatively obscure species within the caecilian family. Caecilians are legless amphibians that are often mistaken for snakes or worms due to their elongated bodies and lack of limbs. This particular species has been found in the lush, verdant plantation fields of Kodagu (also known as Coorg), a region in the Western Ghats of India where coffee and areca nuts are extensively cultivated.

Ichthyophis kodaguensis is characterized by its distinct body segmentation. The body is divided into approximately 300 annuli, which are ring-like folds of skin that give the appearance of external segmentation. These annuli play a role in their locomotion, allowing for flexibility and contraction as the animal moves through the soil or substrate.

The morphology of the Kodagu striped Ichthyophis is particularly well-adapted to a subterranean lifestyle. Their heads are slightly wider than their bodies, facilitating burrowing; they use their heads to push soil aside and navigate through the earth. This burrowing behavior is critical for their survival, as it allows them to hunt for food, escape predators, and regulate their body temperature by staying in the cooler, moist soil.

Due to their elusive nature and subterranean habits, much remains to learn about the Kodagu striped Ichthyophis. This lack of data also extends to their conservation status, which is why the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently lists them as ‘Data Deficient.’ This classification indicates that there is not enough information available to precisely assess their population status and the threats they may be facing.

What is known, however, is that the habitats where these caecilians live are under constant threat from human activities. Changes in land use, such as the expansion of agriculture and deforestation, can lead to habitat loss and fragmentation, which in turn can harm their populations.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
India
DD
2008
Karnataka

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No