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Cuadernos de herpetología

versión On-line ISSN 1852-5768

Cuad. herpetol. vol.30 no.1 San Salvador de Jujuy mayo 2016



Predation of Oscaecilia bassleri (Gymnophiona: Caecilidae) by Anilius scytale (Serpentes: Aniliidae) in southeast Peru

Jaime Villacampa1, Andrew Whitworth1, 2

1 The Crees Foundation, Urbanización Mariscal Gamarra B-5 Zona 1 2da Etapa, Cusco, Peru.

2 Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine, College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, G12 8QQ, UK.

Recibida: 15/04/15
Revisada: 13/10/15
Aceptada: 21/03/16


We report an event of predation between two fossorial species; the snake Anilius scytale on the caecilian Oscaecilia bassleri, from the Manu Biosphere Reserve, southeast Peru. This is the first ever report of predation on O. bassleri and complements information known about the feeding ecology of A. scytale.

Tropical fossorial herpetofauna species are rarely found due to their secretive lifestyles and therefore, there is a paucity of information about their ecology (Maritz and Alexander, 2009; Böhm et al., 2013), including feeding habits (Maschio et al., 2010). Here we report upon a predation event involving two fossorial species; the caecilian, Oscaecilia bassleri (Dunn, 1942), predated by the coral pipe snake, Anilius scytale (Linnaeus, 1758).

The distribution of Anilius scytale ranges through the western Amazonian basin lowlands and foothills, into the tropical rainforests of the Guyana Shield (Duellman, 2005; Uetz and Hošek, 2014) and the eastern Amazon region, in Brazil (Maschio et al., 2007). It is known to feed mainly on amphisbaenians, but also on other vertebrates with elongated bodies, such as caecilians, snakes and fish (Maschio et al., 2010).

The caecilian O. bassleri is a poorly known species that occurs through the foothills and lowlands of eastern Ecuador and Peru (IUCN, 2014), yet both species are known to occur in Manu National Park and its buffer zone in southeast Peru (Catenazzi et al., 2013).

On 21st August 2014 at 9:00 am, an individual of A. scytale was found on the Mascoitania reserve (12°47’21.84"S; 71°23’28.06"W, 460 m a.s.l.), Ama­zonian southeast Peru. The locality holds a research station and lodge; the Manu Learning Centre, which is situated along the Alto Madre de Dios River, in the buffer area of Manu National Park. It is a 643 ha private reserve owned and operated by The Crees Foundation, hosting a base for research, tourism and volunteer activities. The specimen was crossing one of the pathways within the station, and was caught and temporarily withheld in the project work area to be measured and photographed. At 21:30, during the measurements, the individual started to open and close its mouth and began to regurgitate an individual of O. bassleri (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. A) Specimen of Anilius scytale regurgitating an Oscaecilia bassleri. B) Complete regurgitation.

The individual of A. scytale was 68.5 cm in length and weighed 160.9 g, after regurgitation. The individual of O. bassleri was 88 cm long and weighed 29.1 g. The caecilian was ingested head first and therefore the head and anterior end of the body was in the initial process of digestion, while the rest of the body was intact.

Anilius scytale has been known to prey upon other caecilian species, such as Siphonops annulatus (Greene, 1983) and Caecilia cf. gracilis (Taylor, 1968; Maschio et al., 2010), but this is the first record ever made upon O. bassleri. In fact, no other predation events have ever been documented for O. bassleri.


We thank The Crees Foundation (www.crees-manu. org) and its director, Quinn Meyer, for supporting the herpetological research as part of Crees’ long-term biodiversity monitoring programme. Thanks to the University of Glasgow for supporting field work conducted at the Manu Learning Centre. We also thank Chicago Herpetological Society, the Louise Hiom Fund and Glasgow Natural History Society for financial support with project and field equipment. Finally, thanks to Rudolf von May and two anonymous reviewers for the confirmation of the species identification and comments on a previous version of the manuscript.


Literature cited

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