Ringed Caecilians

Forget what you learned in elementary school about mammals being the only animals that nurse their young. Science is always evolving!

Ringed caecilians are worm-like amphibians that grow to about 17.5 inches long. And they lay eggs (side note – other caecilians species give birth to live young). When the wriggly baby ringed caecilians hatch, they are born with itty-bitty teeth shaped like spoons. The teeth are not for nursing, but for scaping off their mother’s skin to eat. Delish! Apparently the skin is full of lipids (fatty, waxy, or oily substances) and proteins the young need to grow. Scientists realized, though, that the young only fed this way every few days. So how were they developing so rapidly, increasing their body mass up to 130 percent in just a week?

Ready for this? Young caecilians were observed wriggling around their mother’s posterior end several times a day, near her all-purpose orifice called a vent. Some even stuck their head into the vent. Not only that, but the young caecilians were also observed making squeaking sounds and nipping at their mother near the vent; both stimulated the production of a milk-like fluid. Analysis of the fluid revealed that it contained lipids and carbohydrates, giving the hatchlings much needed energy to grow.

And for the record, ringed caecilians are not the only non-mammal that nurse. Other animals that produce a milk-like substance include some bird, fish, spider, and cockroach species.