Dietary habits of Australian blindsnakes (Typhlopidae)

Jonathan K. Webb, Richard Shine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dissection of 1423 specimens of 11 species of small fossorial Australasian blindsnakes (Ramphotyphlops) provided extensive information on dietary differences among species, on the seasonality of feeding, and on intra- and inter-specific correlations between blindsnake morphology and prey size. Larvae and pupae of ants comprised almost 80% of all prey items identified, except in the New Guinean R. subocularis which appears to feed entirely on earthworms. At least two temperate-zone typhlopid species (R. australis and R. nigrescens) showed strongly seasonal feeding schedules.

Heavy-bodied blindsnake species (R. pinguis, R. proximus, R. ligatus) had wider mouths and heads relative to snout-vent length than did more slender species and fed mostly on the brood of large stinging ants (Myrmecia). Larger specimens of these three species (and the morphologically intermediate R. australis and R. nigrescens) consumed larger prey. In contrast, slender-bodied blindsnakes (R. bituberculatus, R. hamatus, R. polygrammicus, R. waitii, R. weidii) took smaller ants and showed no significant intraspecific correlations between predator size and prey size. We infer that the heavy build of some typhlopid species may be an adaptation to feeding on Myrmecia, but further phylogenetic and experimental data are needed to test this hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)762-770
Number of pages9
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 1993
Externally publishedYes




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