New caecilians.

Baby caecilians and their mother. Image from BBC.

A new family of caecilian has been discovered, and published in Proc R Soc B. This is exciting because caecilians are amphibians, and that means that this is a new family of vertebrates. It’s not often that new families of vertebrates get discovered these days.

Caecilians look like a cross between and snake and a worm. But they are not related to worms, they just act like them. They have a tropical distribution and go about their business burrowing in soil-litter. The new family is called Chikildae, with the genus Chikila. As far as I can see, the authors did not describe their new discovery beyond genus level which is a bit of a shame, taxonomically speaking. The authors used a combination of morphological characters and molecular phylogenetic position to determine the ‘newness’ of the family. Given that the type species in the paper is listed as Herpele fulleri Alcock, 1904, one can only assume that this particular caecilian group has been hanging around under the false pretences as being in the family Herpelidae. Normally, this would require a redescription of H. fulleri as C. fulleri, but obviously the authors went with the more exciting angle of “we’ve got a new vertebrate family!!”.

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