Natural history of Australian typhlopid snakes

Richard Shine, Jonathan K. Webb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dissection of 1198 specimens of 15 species of Australian Ramphotyphlops, combined with observations in the field and in captivity, provided information on the natural history of this group of small, fossorial scolecophidians. Females consistently outnumbered males in museum collections, and were larger than males in all species. Dimorphism in adult body size was determined mainly by dimorphism at maturation, and tended to be more extreme in larger species. Clutch sizes of 1-34 eggs were recorded, and were correlated with maternal body size in interspecific (and some intraspecific) comparisons. Reproduction seems to be highly seasonal, with the eastern R. nigrescens showing mating and vitellogenesis in spring, oviposition in midsummer, and hatching in autumn. Incubation is relatively brief in this species (approx. 48 days at 25 C). Stomachs of four species contained mostly (93-97%) ant pupae and larvae, of several genera. Termites, ant eggs, and adult ants were rarely eaten. Individual blindsnakes contained up to 1400 prey items. Larger typhlopids ate larger prey items in both intraspecific and interspecific comparisons. Perhaps because of its wider mouth, R. pinguis consumed larger prey items than did R. nigrescens of similar body lengths.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-363
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Herpetology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1990
Externally publishedYes


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