Ophisaurus ventralis Photo Fiona Sunquist ©
Florida is home to four quite similar-looking legless species known as GLASS LIZARDS, so named for their very long, and fragile tails. Three of the four species of glass lizards in Florida have fracture planes – weakened areas within or between vertebrae that will cleave easily – in their tail vertebrae. These fracture planes facilitate a ‘break’ if the tail is grabbed. The tail breaks off and twitches and wiggles, attracting the predator’s attention while the lizard escapes. The tail regenerates in these species.
Because glass lizards are legless they are often mistaken for snakes. These beautiful shiny lizards can be distinguished from snakes by their visible ear openings, eyelids, and small scales on the belly. They are less flexible than snakes, which is probably due to the osteoderms (bony plates) under the skin. Glass lizards are the largest of Florida’s native lizards, but the most secretive and difficult to see.
They spend most of their lives burrowing through soil and piles of leaves in search of insects. They feed on insects and spiders. Glass lizards sometimes grow to a meter (3.3 feet) or more in length and are stunningly beautiful and impressive looking reptiles. They can sometimes be seen basking on the edge of paved country roads, or crossing sandy roads in the late afternoon. Glass lizards will allow themselves to be approached, but if you try to pick one up, it will thrash around wildly and probably scare you into dropping it.
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