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Mueller’s Blind Snake

Argyrophis muelleri

Mueller's Blind Snake Typhlops muelleri

Mueller's Blind Snake found in Malaysia (photo courtesy of Gernot Vogel)

Malaysian Blind Snake Typhlops muelleri

Another Mueller’s Blind Snake in Malaysia (photo courtesy of Tom Charlton)

English name: Mueller’s Blind Snake (aka: “White-bellied Blind Snake”)
Scientific name: Argyrophis muelleri (formerly Typhlops muelleri)
Thai name: Ngu-din Yai Malayu

Description: To 48cm long. May appear to be a thick worm at first glance, but can be distinguished by its scales, dry skin, eyes, and flicking tongue. The largest blind snake in Thailand. Body is thick for a blind snake. The eye is clearly visible. Scales are small and shiny. Black, purple, or olive-brown coloration on top is clearly separated from a creamy-white underbelly.

Similar Species: Brahminy Blind Snake is more slender, has more uniform coloration, and a smaller eye.
White-headed Blind Snake is much more slender with a smaller eye and no sharp line of contrast between the dark and light colorations.
Slender Worm Snake is smaller and has a dark dorsal coloration that fades into a light brown belly, rather than a sharp line of contrast.
Diard’s Blind Snake has a dark dorsal coloration that fades into the lighter belly, rather than a sharp line of contrast.
Roxane’s Blind Snake has a yellow snout and cloaca and lacks the sharp line of contrast separating dorsal and ventral coloration.
Flower’s Blind Snake is creamy yellow from the snout to the chin and has a blunt tail.

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.

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. 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.

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, and mollusks. 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 due to its habits this snake is not commonly found.

Interesting facts: Mueller’s Blind Snake is reported to sometimes feed on smaller snakes, which would be unique among the blind snakes of Thailand. Its relatively large size is what enables it to go after such substantial prey.

References:
Ecology Asia: White-bellied Blind Snake
Nature Malaysia: 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.
Thailand Office of Environmental Planning and Policy: A Checklist of Amphibians and Reptiles in Thailand
A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia
A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand

 

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