Herpetology of Ethiopia and Eritrea

Caeciliidae Rafinesque, 1814

Sylvacaecilia grandisonae (Taylor, 1970)

Sylvacaecilia grandisonae - Bedelle, Illubabor, Ethiopia

A rather short plump species, reaching a known length of 260 mm. The body width in length approximately 24 times. Eyes visible in a socket not continuous with the tentacular groove. Tentacle distinctly closer to the eye than to the nostril. Primary folds 84-95, complete dorsally but narrowly incomplete on the anterior ventral part of the body. Secondary folds 69—72 with 32—33 complete. Splenial teeth, 3-3 to 5-5. Four to five scale rows in each fold on the last two cm of body. Tongue with two small narial plugs. A diastema between the squamosal bone and the parietal bone.
Type: A small, rather thick—bodied species tapering slightly posteriorly, the length 259 mm, the body width 11 mm; body width in length, approximately 23.5 times. Head narrowing somewhat anteriorly, with rounded snout projecting 1.2 mm beyond mouth; length of lower jaw from tip to rictus oris, 8 mm. Eye in socket which is not continuous with the tentacular groove. Tentacle distinctly closer to eye (1.9 mm) than to nostril (2.7 mm). Snout tip to first nuchal groove, 12.4 mm; to 2nd groove, 15.4 mm; to 3rd nuchal groove, 19 mm (lateral measurements). Tentacle about equidistant between edge of lip and a line from eye to nostril, the external opening minute, somewhat horseshoe—shaped. very slightly elevated. The two collars following occiput not very distinct, seemingly somewhat swollen perhaps due to a small tumor in mouth and throat). The first nuchal groove distinct laterally, vague dorsally and ventrally; a transverse groove vaguely evident on collar; second groove limiting first collar distinct below and on side but very dim or absent dorsally; the third groove rather distinct dorsally and ventrally, except it fuses with the first primary fold for a short distance. Second collar wider than first, with no dorsal transverse groove evident. Primary folds following second collar, 84, complete dorsally throughout but narrowly incomplete ventrally on most of anterior half of body. Secondary folds, 69, of which about 33 are complete. Scales beginning on primary folds at a point near first secondaries. At midbody, 2 to 3 scale rows, which may not be complete ventrally, in each fold; posteriorly, 4-5 scale rows in each fold, the scales variable in size, the largest 1.2-1.4 mm in greatest width. No subdermal scales found. Glands in skin visible, but not especially conspicuous. In the grooves the elongate glands are directed forward and downward but are less conspicuous than in many caecilians. No anal glands visible (♀ ?) Scales not found in the first secondaries. Terminal “shield” very small (3 mm wide). Vent subcircular, the surrounding denticrjlations elevated (may not be typical).
Color: The general color is a dull bluish to violet slate nearly uniform above, perhaps somewhat more violet anteriorly. Top and sides of head and chin more grayish, lighter than dorsum. A distinct light spot over and surrounding eye, one at nostril, one at tentacle, and one covering the denticles in vent area. Folds on sides have very narrow inconspicuous light edges on anterior part of body [TAYLOR 1970].

Endemic. Inhabits the montane forests in western Ethiopia, near clean forest springs and streams. Wollega, Kaffa and Illubabor provinces in altitude between 1500-2150 m.

Poorly known species. It is known only from tropical deciduous forest. The adults live beneath leaf-litter and humus on the forest floor, breeding in small springs and streamlets where the larvae can burrow in soft, water-saturated mud. We found S.g. in Bedele, about 1km passed the brewery, to the left of the road in a small marsh which was fed by small stream. There was several marsh ponds and all were overgrown by marsh vegetation. I found also larvae in Bonga about 20km south, on the left side of road in a small overgrown marsh. I think its more common than we think, but difficult to find, it lives very secretively and its almost invisible in water. The adults come a shore and hide amongst vegetation or under tree stumps and stones - but always on wet soil, never dry. They dont live only in woods and forest but also on pastures, but always with abundance of vegetation. I think the preservation is not about this one species but in the protection of the ecosystem as a whole.

Taylor, E. H. 1970. A new caecilian from Ethiopia. University of Kansas Science Bulletin 48: 849-854.

Described as Geotrypetes grandisonae

Common english name: Aleku Caecilian or Ethiopian Caecilian

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