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What is a Blind Snake?

By Rhonda Rivera
Updated May 21, 2024
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Blind snakes share many characteristics of both regular snakes and earthworms, but they are classified as a type of snake. They can be found in countries all over the world, from the United States to the Philippines. This type of snake tends to live deep underground, and is almost entirely blind. They rarely encounter humans due to their natural habitats, but they are not venomous. Some blind snakes lay eggs while others have a live birth, but the reproduction methods of many blind snakes is not known.

Rarely exceeding 1 foot (0.3 m) long, a blind snake normally hunts small prey, such as ants, termites, and earthworms. Certain species are known to live near the nests of ants and termites, but researchers are not sure what exactly they eat. The larva of ants and termites seems likely, if not the ants and termites themselves.

The appearance of a blind snake can differ greatly from one species to another. Their possible colors include brown, blue, and gray. Blind snakes are well known for their shiny scales and round bodies that closely resemble that of an earthworm. In addition, eyes are not useful when borrowing underground, so blind snakes normally have eyespots that can detect little beyond light. Lastly, both the tail and head of the body are blunted — similar to a worm’s body.

Three families of blind snake exist, with several hundred species between them. Anomalepididae is a family of blind snakes that are native to Central and South America. While the snakes are normally found in the southern parts of the continent, some genera occasionally find their way north. As the smallest blind snake family, four genera and 15 species of blind snake are recognized.

Typhlopidae is another family of blind snake that is located in the tropical regions of the Americas, Asia, and all over Australia. At least six genera and 200 species of snake fall under this category. This type of blind snake is distinguished by its scale-horned tail, which it can use against attackers. The snake is also known to release a foul smell and wiggle frantically when captured from its burrow. Scientists know little more than the basics about this particular family, however.

The family of Leptotyphlopidae comprises nearly 90 species of snake within two genera. Like the blind snakes of the Typhlopidae family, these snakes are located in the Americas and Asia. This family contains the barbados threadsnake, which is believed to be the smallest snake in the world at 4 inches (10 cm) long.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a blind snake?

A blind snake is a small, burrowing snake belonging to the superfamily Typhlopoidea. Despite their name, they are not completely blind but have very reduced eyes that are capable of distinguishing light from dark. These snakes are non-venomous, primarily feed on ants and termites, and are found in various parts of the world, often mistaken for earthworms due to their appearance.

How does a blind snake navigate its environment?

Blind snakes navigate using their sense of smell and touch. They have a highly developed rostral scale on their snouts that helps them burrow and sense vibrations in the ground. This tactile navigation is complemented by their Jacobson's organ, which enhances their ability to detect chemical cues from prey and the environment.

Where can blind snakes be found?

Blind snakes are widely distributed across the world, inhabiting regions in Africa, Asia, Australia, North and South America. They prefer warm climates and are often found in tropical and subtropical areas. Their habitat ranges from deserts to forests, where they live underground or beneath rocks and logs.

What do blind snakes eat?

Blind snakes primarily feed on small invertebrates, with a particular preference for ant and termite larvae. Their diet is specialized, and they have evolved to exploit the nests of these insects, often being tolerated by the ants and termites they feed on, which is a rare phenomenon known as myrmecophily.

Are blind snakes dangerous to humans?

Blind snakes pose no danger to humans. They are non-venomous and too small to bite effectively. In fact, they are beneficial to humans as they help control pest populations by feeding on ants and termites. Their secretive nature and preference for underground living mean they rarely come into contact with people.

How do blind snakes reproduce?

Blind snakes reproduce by laying eggs, although some species are known to give birth to live young. They have a unique reproductive strategy where females can store sperm for extended periods, allowing them to fertilize eggs long after mating. This adaptation is particularly useful for a solitary animal with infrequent encounters between males and females.

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Discussion Comments

By anon261565 — On Apr 16, 2012

I live in florida and found a small blue snake while I was digging up a flower bed. At first I thought it was a blue worm. If you know what kind of snake it is that would be very helpful. --Jessica B.

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