Slender Glass Lizard

Slender Glass Lizard

Photo Credit: Roger Clay

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Ophisaurus attenuatus

OTHER NAMES: Glass lizard, glass snake

DESCRIPTION: A legless lizard attaining a maximum length of about 42 inches. Individuals are tan or brown on top and light colored below with a series of dark stripes along the sides and sometimes down the center of the back. Two other glass lizards are found in Alabama; the eastern glass lizard (Ophisaurus ventralis) and the mimic glass lizard (Ophisaurus mimicus). The best way to distinguish the slender glass lizard from the other two species is the presence of dark stripes below the lateral groove running along the sides of the lizard. Glass lizards get their common name from their easily broken tail which often breaks into one or more pieces when grabbed or handled roughly. Though outwardly snake-like in appearance, glass lizards have external ear openings and moveable eyelids which are absent in snakes.

DISTRIBUTION: Uncommon to rare statewide in Alabama, though most occurrences are north of the Fall Line Hills. The slender glass lizard photographed above was captured in Baldwin County. Outside of Alabama, slender glass lizards are found from southeast Virginia south to Florida, west to Louisiana, north to Tennessee and portions of central Kentucky. A western form of the slender glass lizard is found west of the Mississippi River in central Wisconsin south to western Louisiana and west to eastern portions of Texas north to Kansas.

HABITAT: Typically found in dry, open woodlands or grasslands.

FEEDING HABITS:  Feed on small invertebrates, including insects and spiders.  Larger individuals may also feed on small snakes, frogs or other lizards.

LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY:  Active during the day as it hunts prey.  May seek refuge by burrowing into the friable soils of the habitats where it is commonly encountered. Eggs are laid in summer under some type of ground cover or in grass clumps. The six to17 eggs laid are attended by the female, but not likely readily defended by her. In Alabama the slender glass lizard is considered to be in decline and is considered a species of moderate conservation concern.

REFERENCES:

Ashton, R. E., Jr., and P. S. Ashton. 1988. Handbook of reptiles and amphibians of Florida. Part 3. The amphibians. Windward Publishing, Incorportated, Miami, FL. 191 pp.

Conant, R. C., and J. T. Collins. 1991. A field guide to reptiles and amphibians of eastern and central North America. 3rd ed. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, MA. 450 pp.

Mirarchi, R. E., ed. 2004. Alabama wildlife. Volume 1. A checklist of vertebrates and selected invertebrates: Aquatic mollusks, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa. 209 pp.

Mount, R. H. 1975. The reptiles and amphibians of Alabama. Ala. Agric. Expt. Stal, Auburn Univ., Auburn, AL. 347 pp.

AUTHOR: Roger Clay, Wildlife Biologist, Division of Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries


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