One look and you’ll understand why this creature is called a penis snake.
There is no clear understanding on how the penis snake survives.
As a lung less animal, there are several challenges. With specimens being located in the Madeira River in 2011, a warm, slow-flowing body of water, scientists question how the snake breathes as warm water contains less oxygen.
These snakes are not believed to be burrowers as most caecilians are.
Penis snake relatives, such as the lung less salamander and other lung less tetrapods, are aquatic. As a result, it is the opinion of the scientific community that these creatures are also aquatic.
The name given to the genus the penis snake is classified under hints at features of the animal.
The word Atretochoana is from two Greek words. Atretos translates to mean ‘imperforate’ and choana is the word that refers to a funnel or tube shape.
The penis snake is considered a strong swimmer.
Coming from speculation following the witnessing of penis snakes on the surface of both the Amazon and Madeira Rivers, swimming skills are believed to be excellent.
Most lung less snakes rely on their skin to stay alive.
As the penis snake is not really a snake, it is not certain how it breathes. Lung less amphibians, such as the salamander, use a method known as cutaneous respiration. This is when gas is exchanged through moistened skin. Plethodontids breathe through their skin as well as the mucous membrane in the mouth. However, in order to absorb oxygen, these surfaces must be moist at all times.
The penis snake lacks additional features common in other life forms similar to it.
The eyesight of the penis snake is believed to be poor. However, it is capable of finding food, mates and shelter by a sensitive sense of smell.
Little is known on what the penis snake feeds on.
Because the penis snake is a caecilian, scientists feel that it very likely feeds on small fish, worms and other aquatic invertebrates. However, much more research is required in order to be certain.
Development projects in the Amazon are expected to impact the penis snake as well as other life forms in the region.
A series of hydro-electric dams are being proposed for the Amazon. Brazil has projected that a major project being undertaken there will result in thirty new dams by the year 2020. Environmentalists are critical of the project stating it will severely impact rainforest by flooding it and a national park will require rezoning prior to some construction. Ecologists fear that the dam-building project will impact fish migration and reduce nutrient flows throughout the Amazon basin.
The penis snake is believed to be native to just one main region and have a limited range as a result.
Found in the Amazon River and the largest tributary to the Amazon – the Madeira River – in Brazil, the penis snake has yet to have been found anywhere else on the planet. The Amazon and Madeira are white-water rivers that contain high concentrations of silt which reduces visibility considerably. Speculation points to the possibility that the creature could be found further upstream in Peru or Bolivia but there have been no sightings or discoveries as yet.