They aren’t worms or even snakes. They’re soil-burrowing, limbless amphibians, and they’re completely new to science, a new study suggests.
Pictured guarding a brood of eggs in its native northeastern India, the animal above is one of about six potentially new species belonging to a mysterious group of animals called caecilians. What’s more, the newfound critters represent an entirely new family of amphibians—family being the next major level up from genus and species in scientific naming conventions—according to findings announced today by the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Christened Chikilidae (“Chikila” being a local tribal name for caecilians), the family’s closest relatives live more than 7,000 miles (11,265 kilometers) away in tropical Africa, the study team reported.