After downpours, we can easily spot the common soil-dwelling earthworms emerging onto the soil surface or in the gardens. to avoid being inundated in the water-logged soil. Upon a closer look, you may observe a slight variant among the little worms. Unlike others with bodies made up of ring-like segments, its body is covered with tiny scales. It also keeps flicking its tongue... Looking much like the earthworms, the creature is more like a snake. Indeed, it is the smallest snake in Hong Kong—Blind snake (Indotyphlops braminus).
Blink snake is a mini snake that is only 17cm long. Due to being small and its habit of living in underground burrows, it has evolved various body structures that are different from those of other snakes.
Most snakes have a pair of prominent eyes. For blind snake, however, vision is of no use for its underground life. Its eyes have degenerated into two tiny spots, which only allow it to detect light. Hence, this and related species are commonly named “blind snake”. In addition, the scales on the back and the abdomen of snakes are of different sizes and shapes, as the latter are broader for easy movement. Blind snake, on the other hand, has similar scales all over its body. It has even evolved a strong head bone for burrowing, and a mouth that opens downward to avoid “eating the dirt” in its burrowing life.
Blind snake has few natural enemies in its underground habitat, and so there is no need for powerful jaws or venom-injecting fangs as in some other snakes. It has just one simple weapon to protect itself from danger—the horny tail spike. Unfortunately, this weapon may be too weak for any bigger animals above ground!
Does blind snake feed on the soil where it spends most of its time? No! It actually feeds on ants and termites, which are abundant in soil. Finding a meal is easy!
Blind snakes originate from tropical regions in Asia. Through global transport of flowers and gardening products, the species has now spread to Africa, Australia and America. They have established their local colonies, and become the most common and widely distributed snake species worldwide. What has made the seemingly powerless species so prolific?
Blind snake is distinguished by its high-efficient way of reproduction. It is the only parthenogenetic snake species in the world. The all-female species undergoes asexual reproduction, without the need for fertilization by sperm. This allows them to establish their population rapidly without the need for mating in the underground world. The blind snake’s distribution and populations are indeed far wider and greater than other snake species.
Albeit the “commonest” snake, the small snake living in the ground can hardly be seen. To meet the blind snake, you have to take the chance after the rain to visit the garden or any plot of soil near you!