Hoaxes & Rumors

Odd News Flashback: Discovery of the “Penis Snake”

Odd News Flashback: Discovery of the “Penis Snake”

When word spread that a “Penis Snake” was discovered in Brazil in 2011, the news was met with some skepticism. The snake, as shown in photos circulated on the internet, does in fact resemble the human male genitalia. But is this real or just a hoax?

The “Penis Snake” is real.

This bizarre looking “snake” isn’t a snake at all, but actually a snake-like amphibian (a caecilian) with the scientific name of Atretochoana eiselti. It was discovered after engineers drained a hydroelectric dam which spans a river connected to the Amazon in 2011. Scientists were aware of the species from an older specimen held in a Vienna museum, but it wasn’t until the discovery of live specimens that the creature gained internet notoriety.

In addition to its resemblance to a human male’s anatomy, the “penis snake” is also blind and lacks lungs, forcing scientists to speculate that they may breathe through their skin.

The term “penis snake” is merely a nickname, and it isn’t the first snake-like creature to be called by this name. The resemblance to a penis varies from photo to photo, and some who have seen them in person refer to them as a “floppy snake” instead.

The so-called “Penis Snake” is not so penis-like from this angle.

In 2013 another caecilian species some say resembles male genitalia was discovered in French Guiana. The Microcaecilia dermatophaga is noted for regularly feeding on its mother’s skin. It was the first time a new caecilian species had been discovered in French Guiana in 150 years. A specimen of this species was found in a rotting log by Wilkinson and Emma Sherratt from the London Natural History Museum in 2013. They investigated the area and found additional specimens.

penis snake 2

Photo credit: Wilkinson M, Sherratt E, Starace F, Gower DJ via Wikimedia Commons

Bottom Line

The so-called “penis snake” is not a snake, but a caecilian, or worm-like amphibian. Live specimens were not discovered until 2011, when its phallic-like resemblance helped bring it notoriety. In 2013 another caecilian was discovered which some say also resembles male genitalia.

Updated July 4, 2015
Originally published August 2012

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