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Texas Blind Snake

Texas Blind Snake

The Texas Blind Snake isn’t blind and doesn’t look like a snake. Indeed, despite being a snake it looks much like an earthworm, and actually, it is a fossorial snake, which means it is subterranean (or burrowing) as earthworms are. 

Besides that, the Texas Blind Snake is not totally blind as it can distinguish changes in light intensity.

Experts recognize the existence of 3 sub-species among Texas Blind Snakes:

Texas Blind Snakes are harmless to humans; besides the fact they are non-venomous, their mouth is too small to give a significant bite.

Quick Reference Section

  • Scientific Name: Rena dulcis,  Leptotyphlops dulcis
  • Alternate Name(s): Texas Slender Blind Snake, Texas Threadsnake, Burrowing Snake, Eastern Worm Snake, Plains Blind Snake, Texas Rena, Texas Worm Snake, Worm Snake.
  • Family: Leptotyphlopidae
  • Size: adults can grow to approximately 27 cm (11 in) in total length, including the tail
  • Weight: 1,5 to 2 grams
  • Reproduction: oviparous
  • Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)
  • Diet: carnivore

Interesting facts about the Texas Blind Snake

Leptotyphlops dulcis
Leptotyphlops dulcis
  • The eastern screech owl has been observed carrying live Texas Blind Snakes to its nest, where snakes help to clean the nest of parasites. This is called “commensal behavior” (Gehlbach and Baldridge, 1987)   A commensal relationship benefits one species without affecting the other.
  • Texas Blind Snakes move in a side-to-side swimming motion when above the ground. Below the ground, they use tunnels made by insects.
  • Texas Blind Snakes can invade ant and termite nests without being attacked by releasing a repellent from their vent and then writhing to spread the chemical all over their bodies.
  • Besides this, they can produce a pungent odor from the anal glands, vomit up their last meal or prod with the tail spine to produce an unpleasant prickling sensation.
  • Finally, the secretions serve as intraspecific signals as well, in that other blind snakes of both sexes are attracted to them.
  • The Texas Blind Snakes are nocturnal, becoming active on the surface only at night with a few exceptions.

What does the Texas Blind Snake look like?

Texas Blind Snakes are pinkish-brown in color and appear much like a shiny earthworm, but show noticeable scales which earthworms don´t have.

They grow up to 30 cm and are 4 to 5 mm in diameter

At first, it may seem hard to find the head from the tail, but a closer look will show small dark spots that are vestigial eyes The eyes are no more than two dark dots under the head scales. The mouth is small and set in an underbite.

Texas Blind Snakes do not exhibit sexual dimorphism.

Where can the Texas Blind Snake be found?

The species is endemic to the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico.

In the USA it occurs in southwestern Kansas, western Oklahoma, central and southern Texas and west through southern New Mexico to southeastern Arizona.

What kind of habitat do Texas Blind Snakes live in?

Texas Thread Snake (Texas Blind Snake)
Texas Thread Snake

Habitats range from yucca, cactus and thornbush areas to prairie grasslands, oak-juniper woodlands, canyon bottoms and rocky hillsides.

In urban areas, they live in wet areas of flowerbeds, mulch and compost piles.

Texas Blind Snakes can spend the vast majority of their time buried in loose soil, just emerging to feed or when it rains and their habitat gets flooded.

They hibernate during winter.

What does the Texas Blind Snake eat?

The Texas Blind Snakes diet is mainly ant and termite larvae. Besides this, they eat other soft-bodied larvae and nymphs of arthropods as well as their eggs.

Texas Blind Snakes, possess a mechanism of prey-consumption much different from other snake species. Rather than employing the maxilla in driving prey down the digestive tract, they incorporate the lower jaw in a process called “mandibular raking” (Kley, 2001; Smith, et al., 1998)

They don’t like to eat the heads of termites so they break off the head by rubbing it against the substrate rocks or they may suck out the soft juices and leave the head  (Kley, 2001; Smith, et al., 1998)

How long does the Texas Blind Snake live?

So far no data on lifespan is available.

How does the Texas Blind Snake mate?

The males will follow female pheromone trails to find mates. “Mating balls” of blind snakes are not uncommon, where several males try to copulate with the same female at once.

Mating occurs from late March to June in Texas. The male wraps himself around the female in a corkscrew shape under a rock or in a crevice.

While age at reproduction is not known for females, size has been noted. Females averaging 19.3 to 22.5 cm long have been found gravid.

How many eggs does the Texas Blind Snake lay?

Texas Blind Snakes are oviparous.

Interestingly, females only possess a right oviduct with a well-developed seminal receptacle and a short vaginal pouch. While not much is known regarding the ovarian cycle of these snakes, females have been found containing developed eggs in early summer, which suggests spring ovulation and late summer oviposition.

They lay two to seven thin-shelled eggs in June and July in colonies about two feet underground. 

The eggs are long and narrow with parchment-like shells. 

The females guard the eggs until they hatch in late August and September.

The hatchlings emerge about two and one half inches long.

What predators does the Texas Blind Snake have?

Predators for Texas Blind Snakes include Eastern Screech Owls, Eastern Moles, Armadillos, Skunks, domestic cats, Eastern Coral Snakes, Greater Roadrunners, and Texas Night Snakes.

Is it legal to have the Texas Blind Snake as a pet?

Yes, it is, as they are non-venomous.  

However, Texas Blind Snakes are listed as “threatened” and are protected in the State of Kansas (Ernst and Ernst, 2003)but they do not have any special status with the US Federal List.

Conclusion

Texas Blind Snakes are an interesting snake species but do not make good pets, as they are too small and not very interactive.

On the other hand, caring for Texas Blind Snakes can be difficult because of their specific needs.

However, nothing is stopping you from keeping a Texas Blind Snake as a pet, so long as you can manage to feed them properly and you avoid overhandling.

Texas Blind Snakes should be held gently (if at all)  by supporting their whole body and avoiding rapid movements.

Be careful!!! They may emit a foul odor from their anal glands if they feel threatened!!!

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