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acrylic on board 14" x 12"
where on the reptile family tree to put the worm lizards, or
amphisbaenians, has long been a puzzle for taxonomists. Traditionally
lumped with the lizards, these days they're more often given
their own suborder alongside the snakes and lizards. Whatever
their systematics, their appearance shares more in common with
earthworms than reptiles. Spending most of their lives below
ground, they progress with a worm-like, peristaltic movement
of their body segments. On the surface, they can move in a more
typical serpentine fashion. Most amphisbaenians are found in
tropical Africa and South America, but a few are found as far
north as the Mediterannean, and in the Americas to Florida and
the Sonoran Desert. Unlike other amphisbaenians, the wormlike
visage of the little-known Mexican genus Bipes is rather
spoiled by the presence of a pair of stout digging forelimbs.
Like the rest of their group, none of whom bear visible limbs, the 3 confirmed Bipes species dig by forcing their hard little noses into the soil and moving them back and forth. The forelimbs are used to push loosened soil out of the way. They seem to subsist mostly upon termites and ants, and are said to occasionally forage upon the surface at night. Two Bipes species occur in Michoacán and Guerrero, but the best-known of the group, B. biporus, is found in Baja California, where it is known as the Ajolote. A number of very poorly documented records from other parts of Mexico, Arizona, and as far north as Nebraska, suggest that it may be more widespread than believed. In this painting, an Ajolote forages about a rotting fencepost on termites of the genus Reticulitermes.