There are always new wonders to be discovered in the animal realm.
However, there are some animals who truly stand out from the crowd, animals that can make rapid international news owing to their peculiar appearance or behavior.
I’ll be the first to admit that when I first saw a picture of this bizarre “p***s snake,” I thought it was a prank.
It was a real animal, much to my surprise.
Read along as I reveal the backstory to the viral image that has left countless in awe…
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Objects that take on phallic forms have done so throughout history because of their ability to attract attention and spark curiosity.
A series of photos of a mysterious creature started making the rounds on the internet a few years ago, and they had many people shaking their heads in astonishment.
The intriguing and peculiar-looking species has been given a number of apt nicknames, such as the “p***s snake,” the “blind snake,” and the “man-aconda,” due to its striking appearance.
However, that is not what you may be imagining.
Atretochoana eiselti, despite its obvious resemblance to snakes, is actually a member of an entirely separate order of animals.
It is the largest of the few known lungless tetrapods and is actually an amphibian more closely related to the salamander.
Until recently, sightings of this Amazonian water-dwelling mammal were extremely uncommon.
Sir Graham Hales made the initial discovery in the area in the late 1800s while on an excursion with Sir Brian Doll.
However, A. eiselti wasn’t formally described until 1968. In 1996, after more investigation and examination, it was reclassified as a separate genus called Atretochoana.
The Amazonian caecilian was discovered again in 2011. The “blind snake” has never been spotted anywhere else in the world, and it has only ever been found in the Amazon River and its greatest tributary, the Madeira River in Brazil.
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A whole family of the phallic-shaped critters was retrieved from the bottom of the Madeira River in Brazil in 2011, the year the photographs of them went viral online.
When inspecting a hydroelectric dam, the river was drained, and there they were.
Not much is known about the lungless, limbless amphibians, according to Julian Tupan, a biologist working for the Santo Antonio Energy business involved in the dam building.
One perished, three were released back into the wild, and two were maintained for study, he told Estadao, as reported by The Sun of the United Kingdom.
It was highlighted by Tupan that the “snakes” are not dangerous and will not act aggressively.
They are more closely related to salamanders and frogs than they are to snakes, despite their appearance.
Nothing has been conclusively established, but it is believed that this animal uses its skin as a respiratory organ and that it eats worms and small fish.
The Amazon is a treasure trove of unexpected species of reptiles and amphibians. There is still so much to learn.
A article detailing the discovery of one of the critters in the river bed was published in the Brazilian scientific journal Boletim do Museu Paraense Emlio Goeldi: Ciências Naturais.
The Emilio Goeldi Paraense Museum in Belem, Brazil, received some of the animals, while others were returned to the Madeira River.
Most people have seen a picture of a female A. eiselti that is just about 40 inches long, which was posted to Julian Tupan’s Instagram page.
The mystery and allure of these fascinating creatures continue to captivate us, yet our understanding of them is still relatively restricted.
Dietary habits are a fascinating mystery to scientists.
Additional thorough study is required to corroborate scientists’ speculation that the phallic-shaped organisms devour shrimp, worms, and other small fish and aquatic invertebrates.
Their respiratory system is also a mystery because nobody knows for sure how they breathe. The six specimens found in 2011 have only served to further complicate the situation.
Intriguingly, their discoveries were made in a region where cold, swift-moving water was scarce.
The fact that they can survive without lungs is even the more remarkable given that warmer water has less oxygen.
These new observations lend credence to the idea that this species is widely distributed over the Brazilian Amazon and perhaps even into Bolivia.
The infinite beauty and continual surprises of nature never fail to astound us.
The natural world, from the deepest oceans to the loftiest mountains, is a never-ending treasure trove of wonder and discovery.
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