Brahminy blind snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus)

Also known as: Flowerpot snake
GenusRamphotyphlops (1)
SizeLength: 14 - 18 cm (2)

The Brahminy blind snake has yet to be classified by the IUCN.

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).

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). 

The Brahminy blind snake burrows in soft soiland is found in a wide variety of environments, from urban gardens and agricultural fieldsto secondary forests (4) (6) (8).

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).

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.

There are no known conservation measures in place for the Brahminy blind snake.

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Authenticated (07/08/11) by Olivier S.G. Pauwels, Research Associate at the Royal Belgian Institute for Natural Sciences, Brussels, Belgium.

  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2009)
  2. Vitt, L.J. and Caldwell, J.P. (2001) Herpetology: An Introductory Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles. Academic Press, USA.
  3. O'Shea, M. (2007) Boas and Pythons of the World. New Holland Publishers, London.
  4. Hellyer, P. and Aspinall, S. (2005) The Emirates: A Natural History. Trident Press Limited, United Arab Emirates.
  5. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptile and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  7. Ota, H., Hikida, T., Matsui, M., Mori, A. and Wynn, A.H. (1991) Morphological variation, karyotype, and reproduction of the parthenogenetic blind snake, Ramphotyphlops braminus, from the insular region of East Asia and Saipan. Amphibia-Reptilia, 12: 181 - 193.
  8. Lever, C. (2003) Naturalized Reptiles and Amphibians of the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
  9. Wallach, V. (1999) Geographic distribution: Ramphotyphlops braminus. Herpetological Review, 30(4): 236.
  10. Pauwels, O.S.G., Wallach, V., Biteau, J-P., Chimsunchart, C., Yoga, J-A. and O’Heix, B-C.(2004) First record of Ramphotyphlops braminus (Serpentes: Typhlopidae) from Gabon, western central Africa. Hamadryad, 29(1): 138-139.
  11. Paulwels, O. (2011) Pers. comm.