oa African Zoology - Short communications : caecilians exhibit cutaneous respiration and high evaporative water loss

Volume 23, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1562-7020
  • E-ISSN: 2224-073X



Caecilians are legless, burrowing amphibians belonging to the order Gymnophiona. They are unusual in not having a typical amphibian skin. Instead, they possess osteoderms that have presumably evolved from crossopterygian fish scales and these may indicate a close evolutionary link between caecilians and the first animals to live on dry land (Bennett & Wake 1974). They also usually possess only a single, complex, and highly vascularized lung and both these features have led to the supposition that caecilians do not employ cutaneous respiration and that they may exhibit a low rate of evaporative water loss. In point of fact, however, caecilians are very rare animals and very little is known of their physiology. Very few studies on their respiration have been performed (see Bennett & Wake 1974) and all of these suffer from very small sample sizes. For these reasons we examined oxygen consumption (V02), carbon dioxide production (VC02), respiratory patterns, and evaporative water loss (EWL) in the caecilian Scolecomorphus kirki.

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