When we talk about venomous creatures, the first thought in our mind involves reptiles like snakes, lizards and salamanders. Bringing a change into our perspective, a team of scientists from Brazil and the United States has discovered a species of amphibians, ringed caecilian (Siphonops annulatus)with oral venomous glands.
These limbless amphibians are generally found in areas with tropical climates, which includes Africa, Asiaand America. Their habitat involves water bodies or self-made burrows. As they are nearly blind, these creatures depend on facial tentacles and slime to navigate.
Utah State University’s Professor Edmund ‘Butch’ Brodie (Jr) mentioned that while we generally think amphibians like frogs and toads are basically harmless, there are “a number of amphibians that store nasty, poisonous secretions in their skin to deter predators.” Brodie is also the co-author of the study.
Senior author Dr Carlos Jaredadded that caecilians are known to produce two types of secretions: a poisonous one in their tailand a mucus in their head. Dr Jared is the director of the Structural Biology Lab at the Butantan Institute in São Paulo.
“Because caecilians are one of the least-studied vertebrates, their biology is a black box full of surprises,” he stated.
The research published in the journal iScience on July 3.
To study further about these creatures and their body, the team conducted preliminary biochemical tests on the fluid in their glands. It was established that these contain the phospholipase A2 enzymes, afat-chopping proteinwhich are commonly found in animal venoms.
However, as Dr Jared mentioned, “these amphibians cannot inject their venoms and instead rely on an attacker pressing on their pointy bits.”