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Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus ventralis) - July 19, 2008


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When most people see these, they think they have found a snake.  Instead, it’s a true lizard.  The difference is snakes don’t have eyelids (never get into a staring contest with a snake - you’ll lose), lizards do.  Also lizards have external ear openings and their jaws don’t unhinge like snakes.  

This is a young one found one morning in my swimming pool.  I fished him out and then tried to get a couple of close ups of him.  I’m not a herpetologist but I think this is the Eastern Glass Lizard, Ophisaurus ventralis. He’ll grow much larger unless he gets cut up with a lawn mower (which, unfortunately, many do - I just don’t see them in time to miss them).  They like the sandy soil around my house.

These are common to southeastern Georgia and South Carolina as well as south to the coastal plain, therefore Florida is prime real estate.  The University of Georgia, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory web site reports these may reach up to 108 cm in length, so this one has a ways to go. I’ve never seen one that long in my yard.  Instead, they are more around 40 cm here. 

They are active during the day (diurnal) and feed on small insects, spiders, and even small snakes (perhaps that’s where all my ring neck snakes went).  If you try to pick them up, they can break off at the tail and it writhes around on the ground while the rest makes its escape.  The fact they break off at the tail is the source of their common name.

The genus, Ophisaurus comes from the Greek ophis which means serpent, and the Greek saurus which means lizard - thus snake lizard.

© Fred Searcy 2017