Non-Pests > Snakes > Brahminy blind snake, harmless, Samoa

Non-Pests > Snakes > Brahminy blind snake, harmless, Samoa

Non-Pests Snakes Brahminy blind snake, harmless, Samoa

Brahminy blind snake, Samoa

February 2010. Blind snakes from quarantine, Samoa. What are they, and should we be concerned? This is the second official recording; the first was in May 2009 at Matautu-tai. This time the snakes were found at Fugalei. Apparently, they were first recorded in Pago Pago some 20 years ago.

It was thought likely to be the flowerpot snake or Brahminy blind snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus).

Blind snakes have been found in Pohnpei, on Ant Atoll. They are also said to come up drains into bathtubs in Colonia! SPREP offered to help with an awareness campaign, to stop people from being worried about them, and killing them, as they are harmless.

This from Mark O???Shea:

The Brahminy blindsnake or flowerpot snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus), if that is what they have, is completely harmless and not even recognised as a snake by many people. It is about as thick as the inside of a biro, half the length of the inside of a biro, the same colour as the inside of a biro, and to most people, as interesting as the inside of a biro!

Yet it is one of the most successful snakes and probable the most widespread species, rivalled only by the Pan Indian-Pacific Ocean yellow and black pelagic sea snake (Pelamis platurus), because unlike any other snake species, it is parthenogenetic, it exists as females only, there are no males, so an arriving female can start a new colony without a mate, all the offspring being clones. It feeds on termites and possibly ant pupae and lives under paving slabs, oil drums, garden rubbish, etc., and cannot bite a human, it mouth is too small and its teeth are limited to three tiny teeth in one jaw only. It has no fangs and no venom. It has a spine on the tail which will stick in the hand if it is picked up but this is not a sting, it is a harmless device used for pushing the snake along smooth-walled termite burrows in search of prey. Although the snake is called ‘blind’ it does have photo-sensitive pigments, rudimentary eyes, under the large head scales.

The Brahminy blindsnake is probably the most innocuous land living vertebrate, and a positive boon, since it eats pests like termites and ants. To set out to kill it is madness, driven by pure ignorance.

There are other blindsnakes throughout the tropics, most larger, some smaller (in the Caribbean), in three families (all told several hundred species) and although a few Solomon Islands and African species may eat earthworms, most eat termites and ants, none eating slugs as far as I am aware. Any unusual specimens should be sent (fixed in 10% formalin and then in 60% ethanol) to Dr Van Wallach at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., USA, but not without prior contact as sending organic material internationally if fraught with problems.