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Oh, come on! It's a salamander...sort of

August 01, 2012|By Thomas H. Maugh II | Los Angeles Times
  • Biologists discovered an unusual amphibian during construction of a dam in northern Brazil.
Biologists discovered an unusual amphibian during construction of a dam… (Juliano Tupan / Divulga? )

Biologists studying a drained river in Brazil have discovered a new species of amphibian that looks disconcertingly like a male organ.

Researchers have called the eyeless creature, known formally as Atretochoana eiselti, a "floppy snake," but it is not a reptile. Rather, it is an amphibian more closely related to salamanders and frogs.

Biologists for San Antonio Energy discovered six of the creatures while examining the bottom of the Madeira River in Brazil's northern state of Rondonia. A portion of the river had been drained for construction of a new dam. The discovery was made last November, but was not announced until Wednesday, when researchers had confirmed that it is a new species. Biologist Julian Tupan told Brazil's Estado website that, of the six collected, one died, two were kept for studies, and three were released back into the river.

Tupan said the team believes the creature breathes through its skin and probably feeds on small fish and worms. They know nothing about its sex life.

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