Difference between Limbless Amphibians and Snakes

Limbless Amphibians

The limbless amphibians, or caecilians are a group of animals that belong to the order Gymnophiona, one of the three orders of the amphibians. The other two being Anura and Caudata. The group is known as caecilians because the word caecus in Latin means sightless or blind, which the limbless amphibians are.

The classification of limbless amphibians is as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Amphibia

Order: Gymnophiona

They are burrowers that live in moist soils near streams, lakes and ponds. They have cylindrical bodies with annular rings. They completely lack limbs, so that the smaller ones look like worms and the longer ones look like snakes. About 189 species of the group are known that are divided into 35 genera and 10 families.

They are found in tropical regions all over the world. They are mostly viviparous in nature and the fertilisation is internal. These amphibians mainly feed on earthworms and other soft-bodied animals. The caecilians are the only amphibians that have tentacles that are chemosensory in nature and help in locating their quarry.

They have sharp teeth arranged in two rows that help in mastication and swallowing. They have bony skulls that help in burrowing. They have specialised skin glands that produce toxins to repel the predators, and they are not poisonous. The respiration is through lungs, skin, or oral cavity. The locomotion takes place by musculature and hydrostatic motion. They also possess dermal scales. Their hearts are three-chambered.

Their eyes are covered by skin and most species lack middle and outer ear cavities but can detect low frequency sounds. The caecilians lack a bone marrow, and hence are dependent on liver, kidney and spleen for blood cell production.

Detailed information regarding their life cycle and reproduction is missing because these organisms are majorly fossorial.


Snakes are limbless, carnivorous reptiles that belong to the suborder Serpentes. The taxonomic classification of a snake is as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Reptilia

Order: Squamata

Suborder: Serpentes

More than 3000 species of snakes are known. They have adapted to live in niches such as water, trees and land. They are carnivorous in nature and prey on soft-bodied invertebrates. However, some larger snakes like pythons feed on other reptiles and mammals.

Studies say that Snakes evolved from lizards, they have no external limbs. Majority of the snakes are non-venomous as opposed to the belief that all snakes are venomous. The snakes attack only as a last resort. Usually they coil up and rattle when approached. The snakes tend to go dormant in dry seasons during which they are totally inactive.

The snakes prefer living in solidarity, the only social event being copulation. In some, the reproduction is ovoviviparous in nature. The snakes are born with an egg tooth to tear out from the egg but the tooth sheds over time. The snakes continue to grow rapidly until they reach sexual maturity. However, they continue to develop even after that, and can increase in length up to the time of their death.

A characteristic event in the lives of snakes is moulting. Moulting is the phenomenon of shedding their skin to replace it with new cells. Similar to caecilians, the snakes also locomote with their musculature. Their body is covered in rows of scales. The snakes are brightly coloured and their pattern is bold and prominent. The snakes have lidless eyes, that is why they stare inadvertently. The eye caps are also shed with each moulting activity.

They have no external ear but have few remnants of the internal ear that help them in hearing. The snakes respire through lungs and have a special structure called glottis behind the tongue that helps in breathing. Similar to caecilians, their hearts are also three-chambered.

Limbless Amphibians vs. Snakes

Limbless Amphibians



Limbless amphibians or caecilians, are a group of animals that belong to the Gymnophiona order of the amphibian class.

Snakes are limbless animals that belong to the suborder Serpentes under the class Reptilia.

Feeding Habits

They feed on earthworms and other soft bodied animals.

They feed on invertebrates, other reptiles, mammals, birds and insects.


They are mostly burrowers, living under moist soils near streams, lakes and ponds.

They can be found in water, land, burrows as well as trees.


The limbless amphibians are not venomous, but they produce toxins that repel the predators.

They are both venomous and non-venomous.


Their teeth are arranged in two rows that help in mastication and swallowing.

They have egg teeth that help in tearing out of the egg, and these teeth eventually shed; they are polyphyodonts with teeth that are replaced continuously


Respiration is either through lungs, oral cavity or skin.

Respiration is through the lungs, they breathe through nostrils


They have very small eyes and in some completely covered with limited function

They have lidless eyes, the eye caps shed with each moulting.


They don’t have middle and outer ear cavities but can detect low vibrations.

They don’t have an outer ear cavity but do have inner ear cavity remnants that help them in hearing.

Mode of Reproduction

Mostly viviparous

Some are ovoviviparous

Number of Species

Around 189 species of the limbless amphibians are known.

Around 3000 species of snakes are known.

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Frequently Asked Questions on Difference between Limbless Amphibians and Snakes

What characteristics differentiate lizards and snakes?

The most strikingly visible difference between lizards and snakes is the presence of limbs, lizards have limbs and snakes are limbless.

What are the differences between amphibians and reptiles?

Reptiles can respire through their lungs, whereas amphibians respire through gills.

Are snakes and lizards the same species?

Snakes and lizards are closely related species that belong to the same order Squamata.

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