English name: Mueller’s Blind Snake (aka: “White-bellied Blind Snake”)
Scientific name: Argyrophis muelleri (formerly Typhlops muelleri)
Thai name: งูดินใหญมลาย (Ngu-din Yai Malayu)
Description: To 54cm long. The largest blind snake in Thailand and especially thick for a blind snake. Black, purple, or olive-brown coloration on top is clearly separated from a creamy-white underbelly.
Relevant scale counts: 22-30 midbody scale rows (usually 24-26) which reduce at both ends. Has 1 preocular scale.
Similar Species: Diard’s Blind Snake has a dark dorsal coloration that fades into the lighter belly, rather than a sharp line of contrast.
Trang Blind Snake is gray/ultramarine above and yellowish-white below, is smaller, and has body scale rows that do not reduce in number towards either end.
Roxane’s Blind Snake lacks the sharp line of contrast separating dorsal and ventral coloration and only has darkest coloration on the topmost five scale rows.
Siamese Blind Snake lacks the sharp line of contrast separating dorsal and ventral coloration and tends to be smaller.
Striped Blind Snake has lines rather than a solid dorsal color and lacks preocular scale.
Blind snake species are difficult to distinguish from each other, so if you need more specific identifying markers you can go to this key to the blind snakes in Thailand.
Range: Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and southern and central Thailand.
Habitat: Normally found in primary or thick secondary forests, but sometimes turns up in gardens in rural areas. Can be found in waterlogged soil, including muddy agricultural land. Spends most of the time underground, under leaf litter, or in rotting logs, but is sometimes active on the surface on rainy or humid nights.
Contribution to the ecosystem: This snake helps control termite and ant populations by feeding on their larvae and pupae, and also eats other soft-bodied insects, worms, mollusks, and even smaller snakes. It provides food for larger fossorial snakes and other animals.
Danger to humans: Blind snakes are harmless – they have no venom and their mouths are too small to bite a human. When uncovered or picked up they tend to respond by wiggling vigorously, emitting a small amount of smelly musk, and attempting to stab the disturber with their sharp tail tip.
Conservation status and threats: No known conservation issues, though its reliance on forest habitat may make it vulnerable to deforestation. Due to its habits this snake is not commonly found.
There are records from Bangkok for this species from the 19th century, but it may no longer exist in Bangkok, and if it does it is very rare. Its typical thick forest habitat has been destroyed in the Bangkok area.
Interesting facts: Mueller’s Blind Snake is reported to sometimes feed on smaller snakes, which is unique among the blind snakes of Thailand. Its relatively large size is what enables it to go after such substantial prey.
Ecology Asia: White-bellied Blind Snake
Typhlops roxaneae, a new species of Thai blindsnake from the T. diardii species group, with a synopsis of the Typhlopidae of Thailand
Michael Cota, Personal Communication.
A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia
A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand