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Amphisbaena

AMPHISBAENA (a Greek word, from amfis, both ways, and bainein, to go), a serpent in ancient mythology, beginning or ending at both head and tail alike. Its fabled existence has been utilized by the poets, such as Milton, Pope and Tennyson. In modern zoology it is the name given to the main genus of a family of worm-shaped lizards, most of which inhabit the tropical parts of America, the West Indies and Africa. The commonest species in South America and the Antilles is the sooty or dusky A. fuliginosa. The body of the amphisbaena, from 18 to 20 in. long, is of nearly the same thickness throughout. The head is small, and there can scarcely be said to be a tail, the vent being close to the extremity of the body. The animal lives mostly underground, burrowing in soft earth, and feeds on ants and other small animals. From its appearance, and the ease with which it moves backwards, has arisen the popular belief that the amphisbaena has two heads, and that when the body is cut in two the parts seek each other out and reunite. From this has arisen another popular error, which attributes extraordinary curative properties to its flesh when dried and pulverized.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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