The mystery creature didn’t stump anyone in this crowd.
It is a blind or thread snake, genus Leptotyphlops. I didn’t take many photographs, because I know blind snakes are fragile.
These snakes are sometimes called “worm snakes” as they are pink or brown, thin and look like earthworms. This one was dark enough to be mistaken for an elongate millipede. The behavior was totally inappropriate for a millipede though, so I popped it under the microscope. Yes indeed, there were tiny scales.
Members of this group are called blind snakes because they lack eyes, although they have a dark spot where the eye would be on the head.
Why did I put this cool snake up on this ant blog?
About 100 species of Leptotyphlops are found worldwide, and they pretty much all specialize in eating ants and/or termites.
Blind snakes eat ant larvae and pupae by actually slithering down into the ant nests. As you might expect, the ants will attack intruders if they are discovered. Some species of blind snakes escape detection by slithering into the nest, eating extremely rapidly (they wolf down the ant larvae and pupae by taking three or four bites a second), and then shooting back out of the nest.
Other blind snakes can defend themselves by squirting out a mixture of excrement and a clear liquid that contains a defensive substance unpleasant to ants. The snakes quickly roll and wriggle through the sticky fluid until they are covered. The ants back away from protected blind snakes, allowing the snakes to eat in peace.
Because they are so secretive, I did not ever think I would get to see one. It was an incredible opportunity to experience something I had only read about.
For more information, see ant predation by blind snakes