The Florida Worm Lizard(Rhineura floridana) is the only amphisbaenian in all of North America! They’re found only in the northern half of Florida.
Amphibaenians are those strange reptiles who have adapted to a life burrowing underground, using their bony skull to plough through the soil.
They’re definitely not snakes, but research is ongoing to find out exactly how they relate to the various groups of lizard.
There used to be lots of amphisbaenians all over the United States, and fossils have been found dating back to just after the extinction of the dinosaurs. Now there’s just one species left, enjoying retirement in Florida.
Lialis burtonis is a species within the family Pygopodidae. Members of this family are often referred to as “pygopod” or “pygopodid” lizards as they lack forelegs and have only rudimentary hind legs. They resemble snakes due to their serpentine appearance and phylogenetic convergence, however there are differences between legless lizards and snakes.
Legless lizards lack venom glands and the ability to constrict prey, they have a fleshy tongue rather than a forked tongue, they have visible ear holes and remnant hind limbs.
The species occurs almost Australia wide but it is absent in parts of southern Australia including Tasmania. It also is even present on Papua New Guinea, although, populations are extremely limited. Photo shown was taken at Watagans, New South Wales, Australia.
This species of legless lizard is found throughout moist forests in Eastern and SE Asia. Also called the Chinese Glass Lizard. Oviparous (egg laying). Feeds mostly in small invertebrates. Max length of 27 cm. The population on Taiwan may be a separate species, O. formoensis, though this is not widely agreed upon.
What’s the difference between a legless lizard and a snake?
When I posted a story, a few days ago, about 4 species of legless lizard discovered recently in California, a few people asked me, “Why is this called a legless lizard? Why don’t they just call these snakes?” I thought this was a good time to talk about the difference between “snakes” and “legless lizards”.
First off, some herpetologists consider snakes to be just another group of extremely varied and distinct legless lizards. Some would put snakes on an even footing with lizards as one of a few groups within a larger reptilian group called the saurians. Some would stick with the current taxonomy of the Squamata. Regardless of this, lets for the sake of this post consider snakes a distinct and different group from the rest of the “lizards”.
There are actually a few different groups of legless lizards, this is a physical trait that has popped up more than once in the evolutionary history of lizards. Also, it is generally accepted that snakes evolved from monitor lizards, or from a common ancestor with monitor lizards.
1. Snakes have no ears, internal, nor external. Most groups of legless lizards have ears, and you can often see the ear opening on the outside of the side of the head, no such hole exists on snakes.
2. Snakes have a forked tongue and a jacobson’s organ for chemoreception (smell), while most groups of legless lizards do not have forked tongues. Some may not possess a jacobson’s organ.
3. Snakes have a single row of wide belly scales, to aid in movement along surfaces. Most groups of legless lizards do not have such highly specialized belly scales.
4. Snakes do not posses eye lids, but a clear hard window like structure over the eye called a brille or spectacle. The brille is often referred to as a clear scale over the eye, but the structure is believed to be a fused structure composed of the upper and lower eyelids, which evolved over the millenia. Most legless lizards possess typical eyelids.
There are definitely more external and internal anatomical differences between snakes and the different groups of legless lizards, but these are 4 that I thought would be the most noticeable.
(photos of legless lizards, Anniella spp., by Alex Krohn)
4 Species of Legless Lizard Discovered in California
by Douglas Main
Four previously unknown species of snakelike creatures have been found in California — but don’t call them snakes; they’re legless lizards. Prior to the discovery of the new species, there was only one known legless lizard species in the state: the California legless lizard.
Surprisingly, the newfound legless lizards were discovered at a series of sites that weren’t exactly pristine: They include a dune bordering a runway at Los Angeles International Airport; an empty lot in downtown Bakersfield, Calif.; a field littered with oil derricks; and the margins of the Mojave Desert…
IUCN: Almost one in five reptiles struggling to survive
15 Feb. 2013 | International news release
Nineteen percent of the world’s reptiles are estimated to be threatened with extinction, states a paper published today by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) in conjunction with experts from the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC).
The study, printed in the journal of Biological Conservation, is the first of its kind summarising the global conservation status of reptiles. More than 200 world renowned experts assessed the extinction risk of 1,500 randomly selected reptiles from across the globe.
Out of the 19% of reptiles threatened with extinction, 12% classified as Critically Endangered, 41% Endangered and 47% Vulnerable.
“This is a very important step towards assessing the conservation status of reptiles globally,” says Philip Bowles, Coordinator of the Snake and Lizard Red List Authority of the IUCN Species Survival Commission. “The findings sound alarm bells about the state of these species and the growing threats that they face. Tackling the identified threats, which include habitat loss and over-harvesting, are key conservation priorities in order to reverse the declines in these reptiles.”…
This no snake, this is actually a species of legless lizard or pygopodid native to Australia and New Guinea. Although they may look like snakes they have fleshy tongues opposed to snakes thin forked tongues, they also have ears. Other than their lack of appendages they are similar to other lizards and have a diet of other reptiles like geckoes and snakes.
Scaly-foots, also called flap foots, are a group of legless lizards endemic to Australia. This particular specimen was over 1 m long! Notice the bottom photos; he licks his eye clean (L), and you can see the “scale foot” (R).
The Common Scaly-foot is a widespread species of legless lizard in the Pygopodidaefamily. It is endemic to Australia. Up to 80 cm in length with a noticeable “keel” or ridge on the top of the lizard. Variable in colours and pattern. Prominent limb flaps may be seen on close inspection, hence the name “scaly foot”.
Mostly active at dusk or dawn (crepuscular), though can be nocturnal after high daytime temperatures. Lives in long grasses, heaths and woodlands. Most often seen on warm mornings, foraging for food. When threatened, the Scalyfoot flashes its thick fleshy tongue, in an apparent mimicry of snakes. Usually two eggs laid per clutch…
Eurasian Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis), a carnivorous burrowing legless lizard found throughout Eurasia. The specific name fragilis comes from the lizards ability to shed its tail off rather quickly and easily, giving it the appearance of having broken.
A new species of blind, legless lizard has been found in the mountains of Cambodia, conservationists announced. The 6-inch-long (15-centimeter-long) reptile, called Dibamus dalaiensis, is the first of its kind discovered in the Southeast Asian country. The animal joins more than 200 legless lizard species and about 50 other new reptiles discovered worldwide in the past decade.
This snake-like species of legless lizard, of the genus Bachia, is one of the new species discovered during a expedition to the Brazilian Cerrado region. Although there are other species of the genus in the Cerrado (almost all discovered and described only recently), this new species has only been recorded in the Serra Geral do Tocantins Ecological Station. (via: Daily Green)