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AJOLOTE (2011)

acrylic on board 14" x 12"
  Just 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.
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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.