Definition for AM-PHIS'BEN, or AM-PHIS'BE-NA

AM-PHIS'BEN, or AM-PHIS'BE-NA, n. [Gr. αμφισβαινα, of αμφις and βαινω, to go; indicating that the animal moves with either end foremost.]

A genus of serpents, with the head small, smooth and blunt; the nostrils small, the eyes minute and blackish, and the mouth furnished with small teeth. The body is cylindrical, destitute of scales, and divided into numerous annular segments; the tail obtuse, and scarcely to be distinguished from the head, whence the belief that it moved equally well with either end foremost. There are two species; the fuliginosa, black with white spots, found in Africa and America; and the alba, or white species, found in both the Indies, and generally in ant-hillocks. They feed on ants and earth-worms, and were formerly deemed poisonous; but this opinion is exploded. – Plin. 8. 23. Encyc. Cyc. The aquatic amphisben, Gordius aquaticus, Linn., is an animal resembling a horse-hair, found in water, and moving with either end foremost. The vulgar opinion that this is an animated horse-hair is found to be an error. This hair-worm is generated in the common black beetle, in which the parent worm lays its eggs; and is sometimes found in the earth and on the leaves of trees. – Lister, Phil. Trans. No. 83.

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