In the United States, you may discover one of the most interesting animals, the legless lizards, often mistaken for snakes. Differentiating the species of legless lizards from snakes at first glance may be difficult, but these animals actually have movable eyelids, which snakes lack, and detach their tail when they feel threatened by predators.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the legless lizards that live in the United States and learn more about their behaviors and the environments in which they live.
9 truly unique legless lizard species found in the United States
1. Island Glass Lizard
Scientific name: Ophisaurus compressus
The island glass lizard is a reptile that has the unique characteristic of being limbless. This species displays a brown or yellowish coloration with the ability to grow up to a length of 24 inches. You’ll often find these animals in sandy scrub habitats, and they earned the name Island glass lizard due to their frequent sightings on offshore islands.
You can differentiate them from snakes by observing how their scales give them a much more rigid appearance. You can also witness the presence of their chocolate-brown stripe that runs along each side of its body, stretching all the way down to its tail.
2. Eastern Glass Lizard
Scientific name: Ophisaurus ventralis
The Eastern Glass Lizard, frequently misidentified as a snake because of its lack of legs, makes its habitat in wetland regions and soils with plenty of moisture. They are extremely active during the day and can frequently be seen moving through open environments in search of food.
These creatures can only consume kinds of prey that can fit within their mouths, and this includes a diverse range of potential food such as crickets, grasshoppers, spiders, beetles, and even the eggs of certain reptiles. Unlike snakes, it has movable eyelids, external ear holes, and inflexible jaws, which contribute to its unique characteristics.
3. Bakersfield Legless Lizard
Scientific name: Anniella grinnelli
In California, you might come across another legless lizard known as the Bakersfield Legless Lizard. The maximum length that this animal can reach is 7 inches and it tends to inhabit places with loose soil and abundant moisture. You can also discover them hidden beneath various surface objects like rocks, boards, driftwood, and logs.
Surprisingly, they can even be found in suburban gardens on occasion. You can identify these creatures by their light olive-grey backs, which are complemented by vibrant orange sides and greyish-red undersides that may appear purplish in certain conditions.
4. California legless lizard
Scientific name: Anniella pulchra
The California legless lizard is a frequently encountered species of legless lizard found primarily in California. This particular reptile can be identified by its smooth scales and distinct coloration, which consists of a silvery shade on its upper body and a yellow shade on its underside. They inhabit loose, sandy soils or leaf litter, and can even be found on sand dunes along the coast.
They rely on moisture to shed their skin effectively and prevent any negative impact on their vision. The main noticeable difference between adult males and females is their size. Even the younger individuals’ appearances are quite similar, with the only distinction being that the young ones are smaller than the adults.
5. Slender Glass Lizard
Scientific name: Ophisaurus attenuatus
You might also run upon the Slender Glass Lizard, another glass lizard species native to the United States. This animal may grow to a maximum of 36 inches in length and is easily recognized by its six stripes, with one that runs along its back and other patterns, some of which may fade with age.
These reptiles inhabit prairies, old fields, and open woodlands, typically ranging from southern Wisconsin and northern Indiana to eastern Texas and western Louisiana, and from southeastern Nebraska to eastern Colorado in the west.
6. Mimic Glass Lizard
Scientific name: Ophisaurus mimicus
In the United States, one can observe the Mimic Glass Lizard, which belongs to the diverse family of glass lizards. This species is usually seen in parts of Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina and can be recognized by its brownish hue that can have speckles in its body.
You can find them thriving in longleaf pine forests, as they strongly prefer habitats that undergo frequent burns. These animals have a feature that sets them apart from other species, which is the dark stripes along both sides of their bodies, and they also have an overall body length that reaches a maximum of 7 inches.
7. Temblor legless lizard
Scientific name: Anniella alexanderae
The temblor legless lizard is a species that can reach a maximum length of 7 inches. It has a distinct appearance, with a pale olive-colored back, vibrant orange sides, and a light grey underside. These creatures have a preference for living in places that have moist, warm, and loose soil, along with plenty of plant cover.
As a result, you are likely to come across them in areas with leaf litter, such as under trees and bushes, especially in sunny locations. This particular reptile is primarily found in the area between California State Highway 33 and the Temblor Range.
8. Florida worm lizard
Scientific name: Rhineura floridana
The Florida worm lizard, sometimes known as the graveyard snake, is a legless reptile native to the state of Florida. Since it’s the only member of its genus, this particular species is extremely uncommon. The worm lizard’s body is covered in scales arranged in rings and has a pinkish coloration, which might make you think that it’s a worm at first glance.
However, they can reach a length of 15 inches and primarily feed on insects and worms that they spot on the ground. They are burrowing animals you might find in a soil, sand, or leaf mold substrate. They are also known as thunderworms because they are forced to leave their burrows and seek shelter higher up during storms.
9. Southern Sierra legless lizard
Scientific name: Anniella campi
The Southern Sierra legless lizard is a specific type of legless lizard that you can find in California. It’s primarily located along the western edge of the Mojave Desert, specifically in Kern and Inyo counties. When observing them, you might notice that they feed on various types of insects, such as larval insects, beetles, termites, and spiders, using an ambush strategy to capture their prey.
To identify Southern Sierra legless lizards, observe their distinguishing feature of double dark lateral stripes. These stripes can be helpful in differentiating them from other legless lizards.