Papers in the Biological Sciences


Date of this Version



Somma, L. A. 1993. Do worm lizards occur in Nebraska? Nebraska Herpetological Newsletter 12(1):1-10.


Nebraska Herpetological Society, Omaha


Amphisbaenids, or worm lizards, are a small enigmatic suborder of reptiles (containing 4 families; ca. 140 species) within the order Squamata, which include~ the more speciose lizards and snakes (Gans 1986). The name amphisbaenia is derived from the mythical Amphisbaena (Topsell 1608; Aldrovandi 1640), a two-headed beast (one head at each end), whose fantastical description may have been based, in part, upon actual observations of living worm lizards (Druce 1910). While most are limbless and worm-like in appearance, members of the family Bipedidae (containing the single genus Bipes) have two forelimbs located close to the head. This trait, and the lack of well-developed eyes, makes them look like two-legged worms. Their current known distribution includes extreme southwestern Mexico and Baja California (Gans 1974, 1986; Smith & Smith 1977; Papenfuss 1982). [Note: The range map provided in Gans (1986) is erroneous in that it fails to show the distribution of Bipes in Mexico, Rhineura in Florida, and Amphisbaena and Cadea in the Carribean.] This article will address and review unconfirmed rumors of Bipes or a Bipes-like species of amphisbaenid occurring in Nebraska and other parts of the United States.