Reptiles and Amphibians of Bangkok

Central Thailand's Snakes, Lizards, Turtles, and Frogs

Mueller’s Blind Snake

Argyrophis muelleri

Mueller's Blind Snake Typhlops muelleri
Mueller’s Blind Snake found in Malaysia (photo by Gernot Vogel)

Typhlops Argyrophis muelleri Müller's Blind Snake in Malaysia
Müller’s Blind Snake buried in sand in Malaysia (photo by Russel Gray)

Argyrophis muelleri Müller's Blind Snake in Malaysia
Müller’s Blind Snake (photo by Russell Gray)

Argyrophis muelleri Müller's Blind Snake in Malaysia
Müller’s Blind Snake underbelly (photo by Russell Gray)

Malaysian Blind Snake Typhlops muelleri
Mueller’s Blind Snake in Malaysia (photo by Tom Charlton)

Argyrophis muelleri Müller's Blind Snake found dead in Singapore
Müller’s Blind Snake found dead in Singapore (photo by budak)

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 small shiny scales, eyes, and flicking tongue. The largest blind snake in Thailand, and body is thick for a blind snake. Black, purple, or olive-brown coloration on top is clearly separated from a creamy-white underbelly.

Similar Species: Brahminy Blind Snake is smaller and more slender with more uniform coloration.
White-headed Blind Snake is smaller and much more slender with no sharp line of contrast between the dark and light coloration.
Slender Worm Snake is smaller, much more slender, 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
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

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