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Notes on the prevalence of Amphisbaena bassleri L. 1758 (Squamata, Amphisbaenidae) in a study of road ecology in the western Amazon, near Tena (Ecuador)

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The family Amphisbaenidae includes some of the least
studied and understood species of Squamata, mainly
due to their fossorial behaviour. In turn, this implies that
we have limited knowledge of the conservation status
of these species, and we cannot predict the responses of
these elusive animals to increasingly more common and
severe human-induced disturbances and habitat changes
(Vitt et al. 1998; Díaz et al. 2000, Kuhnz et al. 2005;
Huey et al. 2009; Hamer and McDonnel 2010).
Amphisbaena bassleri Linneaus, 1758 is distributed
across most of tropical South America (Vanzolini
2002; Lemos and Facure 2007; Nogueira-Costa et al.
2013) and is largely an under-studied species. There
are notes on its habitat preferences (e.g., Vanzolini
2002; Ribeiro et al. 2012), descriptions of its fossorial
behaviour (Vanzolini 2002; Lemos and Facure 2007),
and discussions of its taxonomy—with Vanzolini
(2002) recognizing five subspecies and Gans (2005)
considering these as separate species. Following Gans
2005, we will use the name A. bassleri, recognizing that
the synonym A. fuliginosa might be in use for the same
species in other regions of South America (Vanzolini
Like most amphisbaenids, A. bassleri lives a
predominantly fossorial life, surfacing only occasionally
(Vanzolini 1951, 2002; Lemos and Facure, 2007). Lemos
and Facure (2007) hypothesized that fossoriality might
allow this species to occur in anthropogenic habitats,
as they would not be hindered by changes in above-
ground natural vegetation. We herein provide data on
the observations of 13 specimens of A. bassleri in an
anthropogenic habitat in Ecuador. Our observations
suggest that this species might be rather abundant, as
previously noted by Vanzolini (1951).
Our observations stem from two different localities.
First, from November 2014 until January 2017, we
registered 10 dead specimens of A. bassleri (Fig.1,
Table 1) on circa 750 m of road between -0.9572°S -
77.8606°W and -0.9506°S -77.8620°W, 585 m.a.s.l.,
near Universidad Regional Amazónica IKIAM in the
Amazon region (Napo Province) of Ecuador (three
of which were included in collection of the Gustavo
Orcés Museum of Natural History at the Escuela
Politecnica Nacional (MEPN) with vouchers MEPN-
18845-18847). We found these dead specimens in
the months of December and June-August, two of the
driest periods of the year in the area (averaging 200-300
mm precipitation / month; unpublished data for 2015-
2016 from Universidad Regional Amazónica IKIAM’s
meteorological station). Second, the day following a
major flooding (~2 m above ground at its peak level for
nearly 30 hours) on March 13, 2016, in an urban zone
of Tena, we found three dead A. bassleri, all within 2 m
from each other in a ~200 m2 private garden (-0.9911°S
-77.8101°W, 510 m a.s.l.). March usually is one of the
wettest months of the year in this region (>400 mm
of precipitation), but these extreme floods occur very
infrequently in the area (the last record dates back to
April of 2010). Although Amphisbaena sp. are usually
described as capable swimmers (e.g., Maschio et al.
2009), the three A. bassleri found in Tena seemed to
have drowned due to the flooding.
A. bassleri is not usually considered a rare or range-
restricted species (Carvajal-Campos and Rodríguez-
Guerra 2003), and we show that this species might
be even present in heterogeneous, human-altered,
landscapes. Mostly unnoticed due to their fossorial
habits, these animals might surface as a result of
floods (see similar observations by Teixeira Jr. et al.
2014). These notes on the ecology and behaviour of A.
Herpetology Notes, volume 10: 497-498 (2017) (published online on 14 September 2017)
Notes on the prevalence of Amphisbaena bassleri L. 1758
(Squamata, Amphisbaenidae) in a study of road ecology in the
western Amazon, near Tena (Ecuador)
Yntze van der Hoek1,* and Pablo Jarrín-V1
1 Universidad Regional Amazónica IKIAM, Vía Muyuna,
Kilómetro 7, Tena, Ecuador.
* Corresponding author email:
Yntze van der Hoek & Pablo Jarrín-V
bassleri contribute to our understanding of the potential
impacts of road infrastructure expansion, and increased
frequency of flooding events, in the eastern Amazon
region of Ecuador.
Acknowledgments. We thank Dr. Ana Almendáriz, curator of
MEPN, for her help with the taxonomic identification of our
specimen. We would also like to thank all our students for their
collaboration in the roadkill project that generated some of the
A. bassleri records used in this study. In addition, thanks to Ed
Myers and two anonymous reviewers for providing comments
that enhanced the quality of this note.
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bassleri. ReptiliaWebEcuador, Version 2013.0. Available at
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to urbanization: Inferring patterns of persistence from wildlife
databases. Austral Ecology 35: 568–580.
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Figure 1. Ventral (A) and dorsal (B) view of a ca. 31 cm long specimen of Amphisbaena bassleri L. 1758 (Squamata,
Amphisbaenidae) found dead on a road near Tena (Ecuador).
Accepted by Ariel Rodríguez
... usually expected, and can persist at least temporarily in areas with high levels of habitat alteration(van der Hoek & Jarrín-V, 2017;Maschio, Santos-Costa, & Prudente, 2016). Studies of time lags in population responses will be key to explain the true impact of human disturbances on this species in the long term.Fossorial species are likely to be disproportionally affected by road barriers(Sosa & Schalk, 2016), and we indeed found that the fossorial amphisbaenian Amphisbaena bassleri and the semi fossorial snake species Atractus collaris, Atractus elaps, and Atractus major represented 70% of all reptiles found during this study. ...
We sampled and identified vertebrate tropical fauna threatened by road kills in Tena, Napo, Ecuador, Western Amazon. We mostly found herps and other small vertebrates during a 5 month initial study. We presented our work in the National Biology Conference in Ecuador. Presentamos nuestro trabajo en las Jornadas Nacionales de Biología 2015.
... usually expected, and can persist at least temporarily in areas with high levels of habitat alteration(van der Hoek & Jarrín-V, 2017;Maschio, Santos-Costa, & Prudente, 2016). Studies of time lags in population responses will be key to explain the true impact of human disturbances on this species in the long term.Fossorial species are likely to be disproportionally affected by road barriers(Sosa & Schalk, 2016), and we indeed found that the fossorial amphisbaenian Amphisbaena bassleri and the semi fossorial snake species Atractus collaris, Atractus elaps, and Atractus major represented 70% of all reptiles found during this study. ...
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One of the most evident and direct effects of roads on wildlife is the death of animals by vehicle collision. Understanding the spatial patterns behind roadkill helps to plan mitigation measures to reduce the impacts of roads on animal populations. However, although roadkill patterns have been extensively studied in temperate zones, the potential impacts of roads on wildlife in the Neotropics have received less attention and are particularly poorly understood in the Western Amazon. Here, we present the results of a study on roadkill in the Amazon region of Ecuador; a region that is affected by a rapidly increasing development of road infrastructure. Over the course of 50 days, in the wet season between September and November 2017, we searched for road‐killed vertebrates on 15.9 km of roads near the city of Tena, Napo province, for a total of 1,590 surveyed kilometers. We recorded 593 dead specimens, predominantly reptiles (237 specimens, 40%) and amphibians (190, 32%), with birds (102, 17%) and mammals (64, 11%) being less common. Recorded species were assigned to three functional groups, based on their movement behavior and habitat use (“slow,” “intermediate,” and “fast”). Using Ripley's K statistical analyses and 2D HotSpot Identification Analysis, we found multiple distinct spatial clusters or hotspots, where roadkill was particularly frequent. Factors that potentially determined these clusters, and the prevalence of roadkill along road segments in general, differed between functional groups, but often included land cover variables such as native forest and waterbodies, and road characteristics such as speed limit (i.e., positive effect on roadkill frequency). Our study, which provides a first summary of species that are commonly found as roadkill in this part of the Amazon region, contributes to a better understanding of the negative impacts of roads on wildlife and is an important first step toward conservation efforts to mitigate these impacts.
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Amphisbaena fuliginosa fue descrita por Linnaeus en 1758 a partir de un ejemplar proveniente de Suramérica sin localidad específica. Posteriormente, le otorgaron diferentes nombres como A. vulgaris (Laurenti 1768), A. magnifica (Laurenti 1768), A. flava (Laurenti 1768) y A. americana(Gray 1844). Vanzolini (1951, 2002) con base de 22 ejemplares provenientes de 12 localidades diferentes de Colombia y 198 ejemplares de otros países de Suramérica sinonimiza los nombres antes descritos bajo el nombre de Amphisbaena fuliginosa(Linnaeus, 1758), y define cinco subespecies: [A. f. amazonica (Vanzolini 1951), A. f. bassleri (Vanzolini 1951), A. f. fuliginosa(Vanzolini 1951), A. f. varia (Vanzolini 1951) y A. f. wiedi (Vanzolini 1951)]. De éstas, A. f. variay A. f. amazonica son subespecies distribuidas en Colombia. Posteriormente, Gans (2005) publica una lista anotada de los amphisbaénidos del mundo, en la cual eleva a nivel de especie las cinco subespecies descritas por (Vanzolini 1951, 2002). Sin embargo, este autor no diagnostica los caracteres que delimitan cada una de estas especies, haciendo que en la actualidad A. fuliginosa se considere un complejo de especies.
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Information on the use of aquatic environments by two species of amphisbaenids (Amphisbaena amazonica Vanzolini, 1951 and Amphisbaena alba Linnaeus, 1758) are presented. These findings suggest that aquatic environments are not a barrier to these animals, until now considered as strictly fossorial. New studies on amphisbaenians in natural conditions are needed in order to better understand which species may use water environment during dispersal events and the frequency of this behavior in the group.
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