Reptiles

Amphibians

Western Slender Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus attenuatus attenuatus)

Description

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).


Habitats

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.


Habits and Life History

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.


Prey and Hunting Techniques

This species preys primarily on insects and spiders. Prey is searched for actively.


Temperament and Defense

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.


Conservation

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.


State Distribution and Abundance

This species is found throughout the state, except for counties bordering the Mississippi River. Although widely distributed, this species is rarely encountered in Arkansas, especially in the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains.

Gallery

Western Slender Glass Lizard Western Slender Glass Lizard Western Slender Glass Lizard Western Slender Glass Lizard Western Slender Glass Lizard Western Slender Glass Lizard Western Slender Glass Lizard Western Slender Glass Lizard Young Western Slender Glass Lizard Young Western Slender Glass Lizard Young Western Slender Glass Lizard Young Western Slender Glass Lizard Young Western Slender Glass Lizard Young Western Slender Glass Lizard Young Western Slender Glass Lizard Young Western Slender Glass Lizard Young Western Slender Glass Lizard Young Western Slender Glass Lizard Young Western Slender Glass Lizard Young Western Slender Glass Lizard Young Western Slender Glass Lizard Western Slender Glass Lizard

Contributors

  • kaptainkory January 01, 2007, at 09:43 PM (Original Contributor)

Bibliography

  • Behler, J. L., and F. W. King. 1979 (1987). The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd ed. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 743 pp.
  • Conant, R., and J. T. Collins. 1998. A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. 3rd ed., Expanded. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. 616 pp.
  • Trauth, S. E., H. W. Robison, and M. V. Plummer. 2004. Amphibians and Reptiles of Arkansas. University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville. 421 pp.

Discussion

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Page last modified on January 21, 2012, at 08:25 PM