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Temporal range: Late Cretaceous–present, 66.043–0 Ma
Amphisbaena alba
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Clade: Amphisbaenia
Family: Amphisbaenidae
Gray, 1865

12 extant, see text

The Amphisbaenidae (common name: worm lizards) are a family of amphisbaenians, a group of limbless vertebrates.

Geographic range[edit]

Amphisbaenids occur in South America, some Caribbean islands, Europe, and sub-Saharan Africa.


One deep-branching and somewhat aberrant genus, Blanus, is native to Europe, and may represent a distinct family.[1] More recent sources indeed place it in the family Blanidae.[2]


Members of the family Amphisbaenidae are limbless, burrowing reptiles with carnivorous diets. As in other amphisbaenians, the body bears rings of scales, which gives amphisbaenids a worm-like appearance. The head is massively constructed and used for burrowing, with powerful jaws and large, recurved teeth used for seizing prey. Some species have a spade-like head, while others have a narrow keel on the head, and still others have a rounded skull.[1] The eyes are highly reduced, while the ear bone, or stapes in the middle ear, is large and massive. Together with another bone, the extracollumella, the stapes detects vibrations caused by prey items, allowing amphisbaenids to hunt for invertebrates under ground. In this respect, apparently evolution exists convergent to the burrowing mammalian family Chrysochloridae, in which the malleus in the middle ear is greatly enlarged.[3][4]

Extant genera[edit]

Chirindia langi

Over 170 extant species are in the family, grouped into 12 genera:

Fossil genera[edit]

A number of extinct taxa are known from the fossil record:[6]


  1. ^ a b Gans C (1998). Cogger HG; Zweifel RG (eds.). Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. San Diego: Academic Press. p. 216. ISBN 978-0-12-178560-4.
  2. ^ Amphisbaenidae at the Reptile Database. Accessed 1 February 2017.
  3. ^ Mason, Matthew J. (2003-08-01). "Morphology of the middle ear of golden moles (Chrysochloridae)". Journal of Zoology. 260 (4): 391–403. doi:10.1017/S095283690300387X. ISSN 1469-7998.
  4. ^ Mason, Matthew J.; Narins, Peter M. (2001-01-01). "Seismic Signal Use by Fossorial Mammals". American Zoologist. 41 (5): 1171–1184. doi:10.1093/icb/41.5.1171. JSTOR 3884562.
  5. ^ Ribeiro, Síria; Vaz-Silva, Wilian; Santos, Alfredo P., Jr. (2008). "New pored Leposternon (Squamata, Amphisbaenia) from Brazilian Cerrado". Zootaxa 1930: 18-38. ("Leposternon Wagler, 1824", p. 18).
  6. ^ "Amphisbaenidae Gray 1865". Paleobiology Database. Fossilworks. Retrieved 17 December 2021.

Further reading[edit]

  • Gans C (2005). "Checklist and Bibliography of the Amphisbaenia of the World". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History (289): 1–130.
  • Goin CJ, Goin OB, Zug GR (1978). Introduction to Herpetology, Third Edition. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman and Company. xi + 378 pp. ISBN 0-7167-0020-4. (Family Amphisbaenidae, pp. 276–277).

External links[edit]