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A Texas Blind Snake in Temple, Texas

— BugsInTheNews is a VIEWER-PARTICIPANT WEBSITE. This article by Jerry Cates and Ashley D., first published on 7 April 2010, was last revised on 7 July 2012. © Bugsinthenews Vol. 11:04(05).

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Texas Blind Snake (Leptotyphlops dulcis); Ashley D., Temple, Texas--04.06.10 dorsal body in context

Texas Blind Snake (Leptotyphlops dulcis); Ashley D., Temple, Texas--04.06.10 dorsal body in context

Ashley wrote:

“My mom and I found this snake on our porch. We’re not sure what kind it is; all we know is it is a baby snake.

We live in Temple, Texas.”

It is interesting that Ashley and her mom thought this was a snake. Most mistake it for an earthworm. Its tiny eye spots are covered by a thick scale, and are nearly hidden from view.

Blind snakes are nonvenomous snakes with degenerate eyes covered by opaque head scales. They are found in practically all regions of the world where termites and ants (which they prey upon almost exclusively) abound.

These serpents are grouped, taxonomically, in one superfamily, Typhlopoidea, which is, in turn, divided into the three families Anomalepidae, Leptotyhphlopidae, and Typhlopidae. Only one of these families (Leptotyphlopidae) is represented in the U.S. and Canada. Here, the family is represented by but one genus(Leptotyphlops) and two species (L. humilis, commonly known as the Western Blind Snake, and L. dulcis, commonly known as the Texas Blind Snake).

Texas Blind Snake (Leptotyphlops dulcis); Ashley D., Temple, Texas--04.06.10 Frontal head

Texas Blind Snake (Leptotyphlops dulcis); Ashley D., Temple, Texas--04.06.10 Frontal head

Texas Blind Snake (Leptotyphlops dulcis); Ashley D., Temple, Texas--04.06.10 Frontal head line drawing

Texas Blind Snake (Leptotyphlops dulcis); Ashley D., Temple, Texas--04.06.10 Frontal head line drawing

Distinguishing between the two species requires examining the head of the snake under sufficient magnification to discern the arrangement of scales between the specimen’s degenerate eyes. If the scale pattern in this area does not include separate supraocular scales between the lateral scale over the eye and the spinal scale, the snake is a Western Blind Snake (L. humilis); but if the supraocular scales are present, it is a Texas Blind Snake (L. dulcis).

Rarely do I receive photos of  blind snakes (actually, photos of blind snakes are just plain rare, period) of sufficient resolution and quality to enable such an examination. However, Ashley’s photos are outstanding, and they clearly show that–with her specimen–the supraocular scales are present. Thus we can say, with certainty, that this is a Texas Blind Snake.

What we cannot do, unfortunately, is determine its subspecies. This species of blind snake has two recognized subspecies, the Plains Blind Snake (Leptotyphlops dulcis dulcis), and the New Mexico Blind Snake (L. dulcis dissectus). Both subspecies are found in Central Texas, though the former is by far more common than the latter. To distinguish between them, we’d need to see the arrangement of the lateral head scales, just anterior to and below the eye.
Texas Blind Snake (Leptotyphlops dulcis); Ashley D., Temple, Texas--04.06.10 Midbody
Texas Blind Snake (Leptotyphlops dulcis); Ashley D., Temple, Texas–04.06.10 Midbody

One of the interesting features of the blind snakes is the way their scales look to the naked eye.

Harry W. Greene, in his 1997 book “Snakes: The Evolution of Mystery in Nature”, p. 143-4, relates first how Frank Wall, writing in 1918, complained about the difficulties he encountered trying to discern the true outlines of the scales of specimens he examined.

Then Dr. Greene quoted a curse penned by James R. Dixon–who with John E. Werler wrote the 2000 book “Texas Snakes”–on a species of blind snake he had just named with the Greek word argalon (meaning “troublesome, vexatious“), in this wise:

“We castigate the ancient lineage that begat Liotyphlops, for it is obviously the worst designed snake from which to obtain systematic data.”

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— BugsInTheNews is a VIEWER-PARTICIPANT WEBSITE.Questions? Corrections? Comments? BUG ME RIGHT NOW! Telephone  Jerry directly at 512-331-1111, or e-mailjerry.cates@bugsinthenews.info. You may also register, log in, and leave a detailed comment in the space provided below.

2 comments to A Texas Blind Snake in Temple, Texas

  • Tom Sinclair

    I found a South Texas Threadsnake, Leptotyphlops dulcis rubellum, this past weekend under a piece of carpeting behind the Stockman Motel in Hebbronville, Texas.

  • Paula T

    We moved to Cedar Creek,Tx in January and since that time, I have found eight or nine of these little guys on our propery. My dog had found a dead one and was toting it around in his mouth so I took the snake to the vet with me and they told us it was a baby hognose- I am glad to finally learn what these little guys are and that they are not harmful as I do not like snakes in general. I have been pulling up grass in the flowerbeds and pulled them up several times in clumps of grass. Too cool- the things we learn and see around here.

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