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THE OUTDOORS DIGEST | FIELD GUIDE

Western blind snake

September 07, 2004|David Lukas

(LA)[ LEPTOTYPHLOPS HUMILIS ]

This enigmatic snake looks more earthworm than reptile, and with no distinctive body shape or eyes it hardly resembles familiar cousins such as garter snakes or rattlesnakes. Found in the moist sandy desert areas of Southern California, the foot-long blind snake spends nearly its entire life burrowing in loose soils in search of ant or termite nests. Its smooth, cylindrical body and solidly built skull enable it to tunnel into the nests for a feast of eggs and pupae. The spine at the tip of its tail anchors the snake so it can push forward while digging. The female coils protectively around her eggs for about a month, then ventures out with 3-inch young in late August and early September before disappearing underground for the winter.

NATURAL HISTORY

Researchers recently made a startling discovery while searching for desert scorpions at night : Blind snakes fluoresce brilliantly under black lights. Their snouts glow an eerie bright blue, and the rest of their bodies emit a pale green. This remarkable phenomenon is one mystery of the little-known snake.

KEY CHARACTERISTICS

Color varies from pinkish to purplish or reddish brown, with a moist, shiny appearance; vestigial eyes show up as dark spots underneath translucent scales.

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