Meet Ichthyophis cardamomensis, Strange Legless Amphibian Found in Cambodia


A new species known as the Ichthyophis cardamomensis was found in a threatened, remote area in the rainforests of Cambodia.

The discovery of this strange and legless amphibian was made in the southwest Cardamom Mountains of the Asian country. The gray-brown creature faces the threat of habitat loss.

The Ichthyophis cardamomensis, which closely resembles snakes and earthworms, is much longer than its lookalikes, as the animals are able to grow to lengths of nearly five feet, according to Fauna and Flora International.

The confirmation of the discovery of the new species was made earlier in January, according to Neang Thy, the top Cambodian herpetologist for FFI.

"These discoveries are important to demonstrate that much of Cambodia's biodiversity remains unknown and unstudied by science, and many more areas need to be searched," said Thy, whose research has focused on reptiles and amphibians for over a decade.

The Ichthyophis cardamomensis is classified as a caecilian, which is an order of amphibians that mostly live underneath the ground. The best description for caecilians is that they are amphibians that lack any sort of limbs.

These animals have the skin typically found in amphibians, which is very much different from the skin typically found in snakes. In addition, caecilians have bones and a skull, which worms do not have. Caecilians feed on invertebrates, such as ants and termites.

The Cardamom Mountains, once a Khmer Rouge stronghold, is teeming with biodiversity. The region is the home of several rare species, including the endangered Asian elephant.

The forests of the Cardamom Mountains Range contain some of the biggest habitat areas that are left for over 80 threatened species.

According to Thy, the region had shown in recent years an extensive diversity in the amphibians and reptiles that live there, including crocodiles, frogs, lizards and turtles. However, the location is under threat from mass deforestation.

Conservationists are concerned that habitat-destroying activities, such as illegal logging and land concessions, could lead to the extinction of new species shortly after they have been discovered. Thy adds that newly discovered species such as the Ichthyophis cardamomensis could be discovered this year but already be extinct by next year, due to the aforementioned habitat-destroying activities.

Scientists are only starting to learn about the Cardamom region and its animals, as the Khmer Rouge regime prohibited researchers from entering the mountains. Scientists were only allowed to do research in the area beginning in the 1990s.

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