Gymnophiona (Caecilians)


The order Gymnophiona (also sometimes called Apoda or Caecilia) is a group of highly specialized tropical fossorial (burrowing) amphibians. Because most are burrowers, they are rarely seen and, until the last two decades, little was known of their biology. They have no widely used common names and are generally called caecilians. They are found in tropical South America, Africa, the Seychelles, the Indian subcontinent and parts of southeast Asia, but are absent from Madagascar and Australasia.

Keywords: Caecilians; amphibians; frogs; salamanders

Further Reading

Billo R and Wake MH (1987) Tentacle development in Dermophis mexicanus (Amphibia, Gymnophiona) with an hypothesis of tentacle origin. Journal of Morphology 192: 101–111.

Duellman WE and Trueb L (1986) Biology of Amphibians. New York: McGraw‐Hill.

Evans SE, Milner AR and Werner C (1996) Sirenid salamanders and a gymnophionan amphibian from the Cretaceous of the Sudan. Palaeontology 39: 77–95.

Hedges SB, Nussbaum RL and Maxson LR (1993) Caecilian phylogeny and biogeography inferred from mitochondrial DNA sequences of the 12S rRNA and 16S rRNA gene. Herpetological Monographs 7: 64–76.

Jenkins FA and Walsh DM (1993) An early Jurassic caecilian with limbs. Nature 365: 246–250.

O'Reilly JC, Nussbaum RA and Boone D (1996) Vertebrate with protrusible eyes. Nature 382: 33.

O’Reilly JC, Ritter DA and Carrier DR (1997) Hydrostatic locomotion in a limbless tetrapod. Nature 386: 269–272.

Summers AP and O'Reilly JC (1997) A comparative study of locomotion in the caecilians Dermophis mexicanus and Typhlonectes natans (Amphibia: Gymnophiona). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 121: 65–76.

Wake MH (1977) Fetal maintenance and its evolutionary significance in the Amphibia: Gymnophiona. Journal of Herpetology 11: 379–386.

Wake MH (1985) The comparative morphology and evolution of the eyes of caecilians (Amphibia, Gymnophiona). Zoomorphology 105: 277–295.

Contact Editor close
Submit a note to the editor about this article by filling in the form below.

* Required Field

How to Cite close
Milner, Andrew R(Apr 2001) Gymnophiona (Caecilians). In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1038/npg.els.0001539]