Researchers have finally determined what the "penis snake" found in a South Florida canal actually is.
It turns out the phallic-looking creatures are really caecilians, an eel-like amphibian that isn't native to the United States at all, Gizmodo reports.
“To our knowledge, this represents the first record of a caecilian in Florida or anywhere else in the United States,” according to new research published in Reptiles & Amphibians. DNA analysis confirmed the animal is Typhlonectes natans.
The 2-foot-long amphibian was captured by Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission workers (FWC) on November 7, 2019. The caecilian was discovered in shallow waters in the Tamiami Canal, also known as the C-4 Canal, in Miami, Florida.
As to how the caecilian ended up there, researchers suspect it was previously a pet and dumped there. Typhlonectes natans is the most popular species in the caecilian pet trade since they can breed in captivity, experts say.
Reporters said FWC personnel discovered more of these non-native amphibians in the same canal, causing concerns about how established the caecilians are in the environment.
“Very little is known about these animals in the wild, but there’s nothing particularly dangerous about them, and they don’t appear to be serious predators,” Coleman Sheehy, manager of the Florida Museum’s herpetology collection and the first author of the new study, said in a statement. Researchers said they don't know the ecological impact of caecilians in Florida, and will keep studying it.
"They’ll probably eat small animals and get eaten by larger ones," Sheehy said. "This could be just another non-native species in the South Florida mix."