Not only is the Brahminy blind snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus) the most widespread terrestrial snake in the world, but this tiny, subterranean serpent is only of only two known unisexual snake species, with no males having ever been discovered (3)(4)(5)(6)(7).
Appearing more like a dark, shiny earthworm than a true snake (4), this primitive species has a small, cylindrical, body covered in smooth black scales that help to limit friction (5)(6). Other adaptations to its burrowing lifestyle include scale-covered, vestigial eyes, a rigid skull, and a blunt snout (4)(5)(6).
The global spread of this species is at least partially attributable to its habit of ‘stowing away’ in the root mass of exotic potted plants, thus earning it the alternative name of the flowerpot snake (2)(3)(5)(6).
With a population comprised entirely of females, the Brahminy blind snake is one of only a few snake species known to reproduce through parthenogenesis. This curious reproductive mode involves the female laying small clutches of thin-shelled, peanut-sized eggs without needing to mate. The unfertilized eggs then hatch into tiny snakes around 53 millimetres in length, all of which are female. Thus a single adult, transported half way around the world in a flowerpot, has the potential to start a whole new colony without the hassle of finding a mate (2)(3)(4)(5)(6)(7).
All blind snakes live primarily underground and are generally only seen on the surface when food is scarce, or after being flushed out by heavy rain (6). Like other blind snakes, the Brahminy blind snake typically feeds on ants, termites and their eggs and larvae (2)(3)(5).
If threatened, this species may occasionally exude a foul-smelling chemical secretion (6).
Having been accidentally introduced to many of the warmer parts of the world (5)(6), this species has the widest distribution of any terrestrial snake (3)(4)(7).
Although it is thought to have probably originated form India or Southeast Asia, the Brahminy blind snake is now found in parts of Africa, Australia, North, Central and South America, southern and eastern Asia from the Arabian Peninsula to Japan, and on numerous islands of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans (3)(4)(7)(8)(9).
The distribution of the Brahminy blind snake continues to widen year after year, and it is thought that it may eventually establish itself in the majority of the world’s tropical and subtropical areas (10)(11).
While the conservation status of the Brahminy blind snake is yet to be assessed on the IUCN Red List, there are no known threats to this species. Furthermore, this species has an extremely widespread distribution and appears to be highly tolerant of disturbance.
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