Long reported from Brazil, the mysterious minhocão is said to be an enormous black scaly worm-like creature with a pair of tentacles on its head, which spends its life burrowing underground but creates such enormous trenches that it has been blamed for uprooting orchards and even redirecting the courses of rivers. I have suggested in various books and on my ShukerNature blog that if such an animal genuinely exists, it may be an undiscovered gigantic species of cæcilian – a subterranean, fossorial, and superficially vermiform, limbless amphibian that possesses cephalic tentacles and can be scaly. I recently received the following communication from correspondent Samwell Rowan concerning a truly remarkable but hitherto undocumented minhocão-reminiscent mystery beast encountered by his mother during the late 1980s or early 1990s in a Peruvian rainforest:
She told me she was walking by herself in the jungle and saw what she initially thought was a large, black snake moving through the leaves on the forest floor. She then noticed it had armoured plates and may have had numerous small legs. Both my mother and I are aware that there are giant centipedes in that region, but the size of it does not match up. She described it as being well over one foot thick and never saw its head nor tail even though she observed it for several minutes. She guessed it must have been at least twenty feet long. She didn’t mention her sighting to me in full detail until a couple of years later because she assumed it was a centipede and was not aware of the minhocão. I was not aware of the minhocão either until about a year ago when I first found your website.
If it were limbless, it does indeed recall the body form reported for the minhocão – such a pity that she didn’t catch sight of its head. If, conversely, it had numerous small legs, then the mystery beast is instantly eliminated from further consideration. I also tend to discount a giant centipede in favour of a giant millipede, specifically one of the armoured species. This is because centipedes tend not to be black and, although multi-limbed, their legs are relatively fewer and bigger than those of millipedes – some of whose larger species are indeed black and equipped with numerous small legs.
Even so, the world’s biggest millipede specimen – an African black millipede Archispirostreptus gigas owned by Jim Klinger of Coppell, Texas, and sporting an impressive complement of 256 legs – only measures 15.2in long and 2.6in in circumference. This is a far cry indeed from the monstrous dimensions claimed by Samwell’s mother for the unidentified vermiform creature encountered by her in Peru (even allowing for exaggeration or over-estimation of size). Moreover, for fundamental physiological reasons, no known species of terrestrial arthropod attains anything even remotely approaching those dimensions, so Peru’s worm-like wonder currently remains an enigma.
Samwell Rowan, pers. comm., 4 Oct 2010.