Blind Snake Vocalizations

Turn on the sound to listen to its squeaks! During the monsoon season I had a very unexpected guest while I was with the frillies. Out of the corner of my eye a worm-like figure was rapidly undulating and twitching, manuevering briskly and ineffectively across the tiled floor. Initially I was caught off guard not recognizing this bizarre critter, but after it stopped moving I saw the characteristic snake sheen off its scaled body. Not only that, but two dark blots in place of eyes and a weird enlarged rostrum. It was a blind snake, and a pretty big one— over a foot an a half long. When I picked it up, the snake suddenly opened its tiny mouth cavity and gave a high pitched squeal along with a bubble of saliva. Out of the hundreds of snakes I’ve picked up, this has never happened before and I was so caught off guard. Thinking it was a fluke, I took the snake outside and placed it on the ground. To my surprise it began to sing a chorus. Every time the snake lifted its head it would produce a faint squeak, continuing on for many minutes. It’s hard for me to think of this as an antipredator behavior, so feel free to shout out any theories! Keep watching the video to see the snake move around while vocalizing.

This animal is called the claw-snouted blind snake (Anilios unguirostris), referencing its shovel-shaped rostrum. It is distributed near northern coastal regions in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and Queensland. Blind snakes are not so uncommon, but you usually have to go out of your way to see them. They are fossorial, spending almost their entire lives underground, only surfacing during heavy rains when their burrows become flooded. Anilios unguirostris feeds on ant and termite larvae, but little is known about its biology. Despite their common name, they are not entirely blind. Rather, translucent scales cover the eyes, protecting them when the snake traverses through substrate. Vision is limited, and they have a rudimentary function of perceiving light intensity. Some authors suggest the name Anilios has a Greek origin: “an + helios” = lacking the sun.

Photographed in hand before release [5]

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