Legless lizards are a rare and underappreciated species that you may find in Florida, a state well-recognized for its rich nature. These legless lizards in Florida are frequently mistaken for snakes because they lack limbs, however, they have interesting features that are worth a closer look. Unlike snakes, these limbless reptiles can remove their tails just to divert the attention of their potential predators.
This article will provide an overview of the various legless lizards found in the state, offering interesting facts about these creatures.
5 Legless Lizards in Florida
1. Florida worm lizard
Scientific name: Rhineura floridana
The Florida worm lizard, which is also commonly referred to as the graveyard snake, belongs to the genus Rhineura and is a type of legless lizard. It’s the sole member of its genus and this particular species can be found in Florida. You can typically find them in soil, sand, or leaf mold substrate, where they burrow, spending the majority of their time underground.
These creatures can be identified by their bodies, which are covered in scales arranged in rings and have a pinkish coloration, giving them a look that’s very similar to worms. When there is heavy rain, these creatures emerge from their burrows above the ground, which is why some call them thunderworms. They are opportunistic feeders, meaning they’ll eat anything they catch, however, they have a preference for insects and earthworms.
2. Eastern Glass Lizard
Scientific name: Ophisaurus ventralis
The Eastern Glass Lizard is another type of reptile that may be confused for a snake due to its lack of legs, and its habitat consists of wetland areas and soils with a high moisture content. This limbless creature has been measured at 43 inches in length, and unlike snakes, it has movable eyelids, external ear holes, and inflexible jaws. Among the four glass lizards that can be found in the state, these species are the most common.
They are highly active during the day and can often be spotted foraging in open habitats. Since they have limitations when it comes to moving their jaws, their prey is also limited, and they can only eat those that fit in their mouth. Crickets, grasshoppers, spiders, beetles, and even the eggs of certain reptiles are among the insects that fall prey to these lizards.
3. Island Glass Lizard
Scientific name: Ophisaurus compressus
If you come across a glass lizard that’s quite smaller than the Eastern Glass Lizard, then you have most likely come across an Island glass lizard. This type of reptile lacks legs and can grow to be no longer than 24 inches in length. It can be brown or yellowish in color, and it has a chocolate-brown stripe that runs along each side of its body and extends all the way down to its tail.
These creatures prefer to inhabit sandy scrub habitats and are often found in offshore islands, hence their name. Although these animals resemble snakes and are often mistaken for them, they are much more rigid-looking due to their scales. During the morning, you might observe them actively hunting for prey, primarily targeting insects, spiders, and other small invertebrates that are small enough to fit into their mouths.
4. Mimic Glass Lizard
Scientific name: Ophisaurus mimicus
The Mimic Glass Lizard is a species of limbless reptile that exhibits a brownish coloration and potentially features speckles on its body. These glass lizards can be distinguished from other species by the presence of dark stripes running along both sides of their bodies. The length of these creatures reaches a maximum of 7 inches, with one-third of this measurement accounting for their body length, while the remaining make up their tail length.
They can be found in longleaf pine forests, as they prefer areas that are frequently burned and have soils that are saturated during certain seasons. In addition, their second vertebra in the axis has a particularly unique structure, which may result from an ecological adaptation, feeding, or protective behavior that calls for a flexible head and neck.
5. Slender Glass Lizard
Scientific name: Ophisaurus attenuatus
Another species that you may see crawling in Florida that’s not a snake is the Slender Glass Lizard. Their tails are also detachable and quickly break when they sense danger, just like any other glass lizard.
This animal’s broken tail will continue to move in an attempt to distract its potential predator as the animal itself gets away from the dangerous scenario. Their names also came from the fact that their tails can easily break off.
The length of this specific lizard can reach up to 36 inches, and you can identify them by their bodies, which range in color from yellow to brown and feature six stripes, including a stripe along their back, as well as markings that may become less prominent as they get older. These reptiles can be found in prairies, old fields, and open woodlands, and are often located near water and create burrows in sandy habitats.