In this informative article, readers will discover the fascinating world of legless lizards found in South Carolina. While many may assume that a legless lizard is simply a snake, there are distinct differences between the two. Legless lizards have movable eyelids, a key characteristic that sets them apart from snakes. Throughout the article, the author introduces and describes four types of legless lizards found in South Carolina: the Slender Glass Lizard, the Island Glass Lizard, the Eastern Glass Lizard, and the Mimic Glass Lizard. Each lizard is described in detail, including their identifying characteristics and preferred habitats. Whether readers are nature enthusiasts, reptile lovers, or curious individuals, this article provides valuable information about the diverse species of legless lizards in South Carolina.
Types of Legless Lizards Found in South Carolina
Slender Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus attenuatus)
The Slender Glass Lizard, scientifically known as Ophisaurus attenuatus, is one of the legless lizards found in South Carolina. It can grow to a length of 22 to 47 inches and is generally brown to black in color with whitish markings in the middle of its scales. Younger individuals have dark stripes along the back and sides, while older individuals develop faint crossbands.
Slender Glass Lizards are typically found in dry grasslands and open forests in South Carolina. They have a diet consisting of insects, spiders, small rodents, and small lizards. However, unlike snakes, Slender Glass Lizards do not have flexible jaws, which means they can only eat prey smaller than their head.
One interesting characteristic of Slender Glass Lizards is their extremely fragile tails, which can break off even without being touched. As a result, it is rare to find a Slender Glass Lizard with its original tail intact. The end of the tail, if tan with no stripes, indicates that the lizard has lost its original tail. These lizards can often be found in animal burrows or piles of debris. There are also two subspecies of Slender Glass Lizards: Western Slender Glass Lizards (O. attenuatus attenuatus), which have shorter tails, and Eastern Slender Glass Lizards (O. attenuatus longicaudus), which have longer tails.
Island Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus compressus)
The Island Glass Lizard, scientifically known as Ophisaurus compressus, is another legless lizard species found in South Carolina. They typically grow to a length of 15 to 24 inches and have a brown to tan coloring with dark lines – one on each side and one down the middle of the back. The tail of the Island Glass Lizard is less fragile compared to other glass lizards, so it is more often intact.
Island Glass Lizards are typically found in southeastern South Carolina, preferring sandy, loose soil in pine scrub forests, coastal islands, and inland pine woods. However, there is limited information available about this particular species. They are considered to be a “cryptic species,” meaning they are scarce and have been studied so infrequently that very little specific information is known about them. Despite this lack of information, it has been observed that Island Glass Lizards are slightly less prone to tail breakage than other glass lizards.
Eastern Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus ventralis)
The Eastern Glass Lizard, known scientifically as Ophisaurus ventralis, is a legless lizard species that can grow to a length of 18 to 43 inches. They have a greenish to black coloring, with a light yellow or tan belly. Light-colored dots or dashes form irregular rows on their back, and they do not have stripes.
Eastern Glass Lizards can be found in various habitats in eastern South Carolina, including grasslands, pine forests, tropical hardwood groves, and wet meadows. Their diet primarily consists of insects and other invertebrates, and they forage for food both above ground and below. While they are capable of creating their own burrows, Eastern Glass Lizards are more likely to use burrows made by other animals, such as small rodents like mice and voles, or even snakes and other lizards.
Mimic Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus mimicus)
The Mimic Glass Lizard, scientifically known as Ophisaurus mimicus, is a legless lizard species that can grow to a length of 15 to 26 inches. They have a brown to tan coloring with a dark middle stripe that fades toward the tail. Compared to other glass lizards, Mimic Glass Lizards are generally smaller in size and darker in color.
Mimic Glass Lizards are quite rare to find in South Carolina. They prefer habitat such as pine forests and grasslands. Unfortunately, not much is known about this particular species, as their habitat and behavior have been studied infrequently. However, one confirmed predator of Mimic Glass Lizards is the Black Racer snake, which can be found in the same habitat and hunts these lizards.
Additional Identification Resources
If you need additional help identifying legless lizards, it is recommended to use the Peterson Field Guides to Reptiles and Amphibians. These field guides provide comprehensive information and illustrations to assist with identifying various species of reptiles and amphibians.
In conclusion, South Carolina is home to several different species of legless lizards, each with their own unique characteristics and habitats. The Slender Glass Lizard, Island Glass Lizard, Eastern Glass Lizard, and Mimic Glass Lizard can all be found in different regions of the state. While some species have been studied extensively, others, such as the Island Glass Lizard and Mimic Glass Lizard, have limited information available. If you are fortunate enough to come across one of these legless lizards in South Carolina, take a moment to appreciate the diversity of reptiles found in the state.