Online Field Guide to The Reptiles and Amphibians of Arizona

New Mexico Threadsnake (Leptotyphlops dissectus) Arizona
Cochise County, AZ

New Mexico Threadsnake (Leptotyphlops dissectus) Arizona
Cochise Co., AZ
New Mexico Threadsnake (Leptotyphlops dissectus) Arizona
Tail spine
New Mexico Threadsnake (Leptotyphlops dissectus) Arizona
Cochise County, AZ
New Mexico Threadsnake (Leptotyphlops dissectus) Arizona
Cochise Co., AZ

 NEW MEXICO THREADSNAKE  Leptotyphlops dissectus
DESCRIPTION: A small (up to 300 mm or 12″ in total length), relatively thin, pink or mauve snake that resembles a shiny earthworm. Both the head and tail are rounded and blunt. The head is not distinct from the neck. The eyes are vestigial and appear as dark spots underneath the ocular scales. Unlike most of our snakes the belly scales of this snake are not enlarged. A small spine protrudes from the end of the tail. There are no teeth in the upper jaw and only a few teeth in the lower jaw. The presence of three scales across top of the head between the oculars distinguishes this snake from the similar looking Western Threadsnake which has only one scale between the oculars.

DISTRIBUTION: This snake is found in the southeastern corner of the state at elevations ranging from about 2,800′ to over 5,000′.

HABITAT: It occurs in Chihuahuan Desertscrub, Semidesert Grassland, and the lower reaches of Madrean Evergreen Woodland communities. It also enters Arizona Upland Sonoran Desertscrub in portions of Graham County. This snake is usually found below steep terrain on bajadas, rolling foothills, and in low valleys.

BEHAVIOR: The New Mexico Threadsnake is primarily nocturnal and crepuscular. It spends the majority of its time underground. It is occasionally encountered on the surface crossing roadways on warm spring evenings. It hibernates during the cold months of late fall and winter. When captured this snake exhibits defensive behaviors that include writhing, releasing musk, and poking with its harmless tail spine.

DIET: It forages underground for ants, termites, other small insects, and spiders. It locates prey by following ant scent trails to the nest.

REPRODUCTION: Mating probably occurs in spring. A clutch of up to 8 eggs is laid in summer. This snake occasionally nests communally and females tend to their eggs.

By Thomas C. Brennan

Bartlett. 2000. Snakes of North America: Western
Gulf Publishing Co. Houston, TX

Brennan, T. C., and A. T. Holycross. 2006. A Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles in Arizona. Arizona Game and Fish Department. Phoenix, AZ

Degenhardt, W. G., Painter, C. W., and Price, A. H.. 1996. Amphibians and Reptiles of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press. Albuquerque.

Fowlie. 1965. The Snakes of Arizona. Azul Quinta Press, Fallbrook, California

Stebbins. 1985. Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Houghton Mifflin. New York,


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