Blanus strauchi strauchi Bedriaga, 1884
Common names: Anatolian/Turkish Worm Lizard, Strauch’s Amphisbaenian [En], Amphisbène d’Anatolie [Fr], Türkische Ringelwühle [De], Αμφίσβαινα [Gr], Kör Kertenkele [Tu].
IUCN Status: LC (Least Concern)
Priene, AYDIN ● Turkey
Etymology: “Amphisbaenidae” – Αμφί | amphi: on both sides, i.e. front and back side + βαίνω | baeno: move; referring to their muscular ability to move backwards and forwards.
strauchi – after Alexander Strauch (1832-1893), Russian zoologist.
Description: Worm lizards are a group of about 160 much specialised snake-like reptiles, belonging to 16 genera that in nearly all cases are completely limbless. But some retain internal vestiges of the pectoral and pelvic girdles. The skull is heavy and modified for burrowing and the skin is very loose.
Many elongate reptiles with small limbs or none at all have one lung very reduced in size or absent (like a snake!); usually this is the left one but in Worm lizards it is the right. In general, amphisbaenians show little or no sexual dimorphism in body size. They are also elongate, slender, fossorial reptiles with scales arranged in annular rings. In some species, a small eye is visible under a translucent head scale, but in others the eye is not visible at all.
Amphisbaenids exhibit a huge size range, from tiny worm-like species of 10 cm maximum length to some of the largest known amphisbaenians of more than 80 cm maximum length in some species; most species fall within the range of 25–40 cm.
Anatolian Worm Lizard is a limbless lizard with a total length up to 19-20 cm. The head covered with symmetrical plates. At first sight, looks like a rather plump earthworm. Head small and pointed with tiny eyes beneath the skin, visible as black spots from the outside. You can see head details including tiny eyes on this photo.
The body and short tail with a pointed end are covered with square or rectangular shaped soft scales arranged in rings (annuli). The number of these scales around the mid-body is changed between 32-42. There is a longitudinal groove on each flank. The body is often bluish brown or sometimes reddish grey.
In Turkey, Anatolian/Turkish Worm Lizard is known from the southern parts of W Anatolia, S and SE Anatolia and represented with three subspecies:
• B. s. strauchi – W Anatolia of Turkey and some of adjacent islands of Greece (such as Rhodos and Kos)
• B. s. bedriagae – vicinities of Kınık (Xanthos) and Fethiye at SW Anatolia.
• B. s. aporus – Mediterranean area of east of Antalya and SE Anatolia. This subspecies is also found in N. Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
Biology: Most species feed on invertebrates, especially ants and termites. The females lay one or two eggs in a clutch.
Habitat: Worm lizards spend most of their time underground and are only occasionally encountered on the surface. It is a fossorial species found in a variety of sparsely vegetated Mediterranean habitats. It is often found in moist, sandy soils that are easy to excavate and have a high level of humus. It can presumably occur in low intensity agricultural land.
Distribution: This species is present in southern Turkey (much of southern Anatolia), Syria, northern Iraq, Lebanon, and on the islands of Rhodos, Kos, Kalymnos, and other southeastern Aegean islands of Greece.
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Alexander, A. A., 1966. Taxonomy and variation of Blanus strauchi (Amphisbaenia, Reptilia). Copeia, 2: 205-224.
Göçmen B., Disi A. M. & Yildiz M. Z., 2008). On the occurrence of Blanus strauchi aporus Werner, 1898 and Chalcides guentheri Boulenger, 1887 in the Mediterranean Ecozone of Syria. Zoology in the Middle East, 43: 69-74.
Grzimek B., 2003. Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia, Second Edition Volume 7 Reptiles Schlager Group Inc. 571 pp.
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