This Reptile Has No Legs, but It's Not a Snake

If you think about legless reptiles, snakes probably quickly come to mind, but there are other legless reptiles slithering across the land, including one right here in Will County.

A slender glass lizard. (Photo via Shutterstock)

The slender glass lizard is one of two lizards living in Will County, but no one would blame you if you confused the glass lizard for a snake. It is legless, after all, and it gets around just like a snake does. (In case you were wondering, the other lizard in Will County is the six-lined racerunner. And it has legs.)


So if it looks like a snake and acts like a snake, why isn't the slender glass lizard considered a snake? While it is limbless like a snake, it is considered a lizard because it has movable eyelids and external ear openings. Snakes have neither of these features. Their jaws also aren't flexible like snakes' are.


Slender glass lizards are typically between 22 inches and 42 inches long. They have deep grooves that run along both sides of their thin bodies. They are typically brown or tan in color, with darker-colored stripes running the lengths of their bodies.

 

Words to know

Burrow: A hole or tunnel dug by an animal that is used as a home.

Consume: To eat or drink.

Fragile: Something that is easily broken or damaged.

Hibernate: To spend the winter in a dormant state.

 

They are called glass lizards because they have very long, fragile tails that can easily break off. They can also detach their tails to avoid capture. The tails will regrow, but not as long as the original tails were. The new tails will always end in a sharp point.


This lizard isn't often seen in Illinois, but it is known to inhabit some parts of the state, including Will County. Although it is only rarely seen, it is not listed as endangered or threatened in Illinois. However, it is listed as a species in greatest need of conservation in the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan.


Where they are found, slender glass lizards typically live in habitats with loose, sandy soils, including sand prairies, sandy oak savannas and woodland edges. In the forest preserves, the slender glass lizard has been documented in a few preserves that meet its habitat needs.


Glass lizards can be active during the day or at night, depending on the temperature. If it is hot, they will be active at night. During cooler temperatures, they are active during the day. In the winter, they hibernate in an underground burrow, where they can stay safe from predators.


Slender glass lizards mostly eat insects like beetles, caterpillars, cicadas, cockroaches, crickets and grasshoppers, but they also eat spiders, snails, small rodents, small birds and even other lizards. They are eaten by many animals, including coyotes, foxes, opossums, raccoons and skunks. Their eggs are also eaten by other animals, usually small rodents.


These lizards will also sometimes consume their own eggs if they are not healthy. Females lay eggs once a year, usually between five and 16 eggs. She will stay with them until they hatch, but the mother does not provide any parental care or support after they hatch.


While these legless lizards are one of a kind in Will County, slender glass lizards are far from the only legless lizards. More than 100 species exist in all, and there are legless lizard species on every continent on which lizards live.

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