Western Slender Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus attenuatus attenuatus)
This legless species is predominantly bronze in coloration with a dark middorsal stripe and several lateral stripes. These lateral stripes dissolve into speckles on the neck and cheeks. A lateral groove runs the length of the body. The belly is patternless and cream colored. The tail is extremely long and easily broken (as glass).
The absence of legs and long, slender build often leads to the misidentification of this lizard as a snake! A few characteristics found in this species to distinguish it from a snake include movable eyelids and external ear openings.
This species is also known as a Glass Snake, Glass Lizard, Jointed Snake, or similar. The genus name Ophisaurus literally means "snake" (ophio) "lizard" (saurus).
While this species may be found in a variety of habitats, it is most visible on (or right along) highways, airport runways, or other similar open, grassy areas. The more natural habitat is prairie or savanna; especially those with sandy soils.
This species is most often seen along roadways, where it is likely to be foraging in the grass for insects or basking on the pavement. It is a species more active in the mornings and after rain showers.
Breeding occurs in the spring with females laying eggs in the summer. The female attends the eggs during incubation. Proposed explanations for this behavior include guarding/protecting the eggs, help in maintaining a higher humidity of the nest cavity, and turning of the eggs to aid in their development. Apparently, females have been known to eat their own eggs on occasion. Hatching occurs later in the summer and the young are abandoned by the mother to fend for themselves.
This species preys primarily on insects and spiders. Prey is searched for actively.
Upon capture, this species is likely to thrash violently with its tail shattering in pieces, like glass. The detached bits of tail continue to wiggle and offer a distraction for any would-be predator. The longitudinal stripes work to disguise the direction of a lizard as it escapes through the grass.
This species is considered rare by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission and has been identified as a species of greatest conservation need by the Wildlife Conservation Strategy group. Primary threats include highway traffic, pesticides, and mowing machinery.