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Rhineura floridana (BAIRD, 1858)

IUCN Red List - Rhineura floridana - Least Concern, LC

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Higher TaxaRhineuridae, Amphisbaenia, Lacertoidea, Squamata (lizards)
Common NamesE: Florida Worm Lizard 
SynonymLepidosternon floridanum BAIRD 1858: 255
Rhineura floridana— COPE 1861: 75
Lepidosternon floridanum— GARMAN 1883
Rhineura floridana— GARMAN 1883
Rhineura floridana — CONANT & COLLINS 1991: 142
Rhineura floridana — CROTHER 2000
Rhineura floridana — GANS 2005: 41 
DistributionUSA (Florida, Georgia [HR 27: 153])

Type locality: ‘‘Micanopy, Florida’’.  
TypesHolotype: USNM 3203. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis (family Rhineuridae). Small medial nasal process of premaxilla that does not separate the nasals in superficial view, a squared-off anterior edge of the snout, external naris opens ventrally, pterygoid-vomer contact, high maxillary tooth count, low premaxillary tooth count, dentary process of coronoid overlapping dentary, and absence of posterodorsal rib processes. Not all of these features can be ascertained in all the fossil taxa in this group. (Kearney 2003: 50)

Description: 118-28 cm; max. 140.6 cm. Very similar to the common earthworm, both in coloration and gross appearance. Body looks segmented, like the earthworm's, but this reptile has scales and a well-defined, lizardlike head, even though both ends of the animal look superficially alike. Lower jaw countersunk into upper, facilitating burrowing. There are no limbs, no ear openings, and most specimens lack external eyes linternally there are remnants of eyes). Upper surface of the very short tail is flattened and covered with numerous small bumps Itubercles), forming an effective stopper for the tunnels this reptile makes as it burrows through sand or soil. Young: About 10 cm at hatching (modified after Conant & Collins 1991: 142).

Original description (genus): “A broad crescentic rostral plate immediately posterior to this on the median line are an oblong frontal, broader than long, and a large irregularly pentagonal vertical, with its posterior angle prolonged between two small occipitals; three small plates on each side of the vertical. Four superior labials on each side--the last three times the size of the third. The first separated from that of the other side by a trapezoid inferior rostral, and bounded above by a transversely elliptical nasal, which is pierced by the nostral above its centre. Three loreal plates in a series behind the nasal and above the labials-the first much the longest. Superior maxillary teeth five on each side; the anterior pair longest; inter-maxillary one ; mandibular, each ramus, six. Inferior labials three or four; one symphyseal, one pair genials, one mento-labial on each side. Sternal plates small, irregular, about twelve in number. Vent very crescentic; three pairs of preanal plates in a longitudinal series. Fourteen rings upon the tail, all more or less tuberculous superiorly except the two basal ones. Color dirty white; upper surface of the head yellowish.” (Cope 1861) 
CommentSometimes this species is put in a separate family, Rhineuridae.

Type Species: Lepidosternon floridanum is the type species of the genus Rhineura Cope, 1861. 
EtymologyNamed after the type locality. 
  • Baird, S.F. 1859. Description of new genera and species of North American lizards in the museum of the Smithsonian Institution. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia 10: 253-256 [1858] - get paper here
  • Bogert, Charles M. (Charles Mitchill); Cowles, Raymond B. (Raymond Bridgman) 1947. Moisture loss in relation to habitat selection in some Floridian reptiles. American Museum novitates (1358) - get paper here
  • Carr, A. 1949. Notes on eggs and young of the lizard Rhineura floridana Copeia 1949 (1): 77. - get paper here
  • Conant,R. & Collins,J.T. 1991. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern/Central North America, 3rd ed. Houghton Mifflin (Boston/New York), xx + 450 p.
  • Cope, E.D. 1861. Comparisons between certain genera and species of reptiles. [Tantilla, Taeniophis, Lepidocephalus, Aepidae, Rhabdion, Callirhinus, Simotes, Erythrolamprus, Rhineura]. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia 1861: 73-75 - get paper here
  • Crother, B. I. (ed.) 2012. Standard Common and Current Scientific Names for North American Amphibians, Turtles, Reptiles, and Crocodilians, Seventh Edition. Herpetological Circular 39: 1-92
  • Gans, C. 2005. CHECKLIST AND BIBLIOGRAPHY OF THE AMPHISBAENIA OF THE WORLD. Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist. 289: 1-130 - get paper here
  • Gans, C., G.C. Huang & H.F. Clark 1967. The Diphyletism of the Amphisbaenia (Reptilia): A Re-Evaluation Based upon Chromosome Counts Copeia 1967 (2): 485-487. - get paper here
  • Gans, Carl 1967. Rhineura. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (42): 1-2 - get paper here
  • Gans, Carl 1967. Rhineura floridana. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (43): 1-2 - get paper here
  • Garman, S. 1883. On certain reptiles from Brazil and Florida. Sci. Observer, Boston, 4 (5 - 6): 47-48
  • Hipsley, Christy A. and Johannes Müller 2014. Relict Endemism of Extant Rhineuridae (Amphisbaenia): Testing for Phylogenetic Niche Conservatism in the Fossil Record. Anatomical Record 297 (3): 473–481 - get paper here
  • Jensen, John B.; Carlos D. Camp, Whit Gibbons, & Matt J. Elliott 2008. Amphibians and reptiles of Georgia. University of Georgia Press, 575 pp.
  • Jensen, John B.;Payne, Jerry A. 1996. Geographic Distribution. Rhineura floridana. Herpetological Review 27 (3): 153 - get paper here
  • Lönnberg, Einar 1894. Notes on reptiles and batrachians collected in Florida in 1892 and 1893. Proc. US Natl. Mus. 17 (1003): 317-339 - get paper here
  • Macey, J. Robert; Theodore J. Papenfuss; Jennifer V. Kuehl; H. Mathew Fourcade and Jeffrey L. Boore 2004. Phylogenetic relationships among amphisbaenian reptiles based on complete mitochondrial genomic sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 33 (1): 22-31 - get paper here
  • MULVANEY, ABIGAIL; TODD A. CASTOE; KYLE G. ASHTON; KENNETH L. KRYSKO AND CHRISTOPHER L. PARKINSON 2005. Evidence of Population Genetic Structure within the Florida Worm Lizard, Rhineura floridana (Amphisbaenia: Rhineuridae). Journal of Herpetology 39 (1): 118-124 - get paper here
  • Westphal, N., Mahlow, K., Head, J. J., & Müller, J. 2019. Pectoral myology of limb-reduced worm lizards (Squamata, Amphisbaenia) suggests decoupling of the musculoskeletal system during the evolution of body elongation. BMC Evolutionary Biology 19(1): 16 - get paper here
  • Zug, George R. 1968. Geographic variation in Rhineura floridana (Reptilia: Amphisbaenidae). Bulletin of the Florida State Museum, Biological Sciences 12 (4): 185-211 - get paper here
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