What kind of animal is it? | Local Features
Is it a snake? Is it a worm? These are the frequently asked questions when this very unique animal is spotted. It may look like a snake, but this animal is actually not a snake but a legless lizard!
This reptile belongs to the group of worm lizards or to the genus Amphisbaena. There are several species of amphisbaenas, few of which are found locally.
Several times I have been asked by concerned members of the public to identify photographs of a strange-looking animal, one of which they have yet to see. Many times these animals have been spotted in gardens, near wooded areas or in the backyards of our homes.
The legless lizard is nocturnal by nature and lives underground. It burrows into the earth where it spends most of its time. Sometimes farmers spot these animals after the land has been plowed.
Critical for the ecosystem
When underground, this animal can consume a variety of invertebrates such as beetles, spiders, ants, and insect larvae. It uses its strong jaws to catch and kill its prey. For this reason, legless lizards are an essential part of the ecosystems they inhabit as they help control populations of small organisms.
The legless lizard also promotes healthy soil structure as it aerates the soil as it burrows beneath the earth’s surface.
About 12 to 18 inches (30 to 46 centimeters) long, the legless lizard’s body is elongated, flexible, and covered in armor-like segments. It has tiny eyes located at the front of its head.
What is interesting about this elusive animal is the defense mechanism it exhibits against predators. The head and tail of the legless lizard look very similar. When threatened, it adopts a defensive posture raising both its head and tail, bending into a horseshoe-like formation. This tactic can easily confuse a predator. As the tail is said to comprise of tough collagen material, it can absorb the pressure of a bite. This way the legless lizard has a higher chance of survival if attacked.
Similar to most other lizards, the legless lizard is also oviparous in nature, meaning it lays eggs.
Harmless to humans
Several types of legless lizards are found locally, such as the white-bellied worm lizard and the black-and-white worm lizard. They each have differences in color and pattern.
I remember seeing one of these fascinating worm-like animals moving along the side of a road during a nature trip in the forest. I was thrilled to spot one above ground and get a close look at this incredible animal as it moved through the rainforest.
The legless lizard remains one of the many types of animals found in our country. It may not be seen in plain sight as often as other organisms, but when it is, don’t worry. This animal is non-venomous in nature and is generally harmless.
It is always advisable to contact the proper authorities for the safe handling, removal and relocation of wildlife, including legless lizards, if they are spotted on your property. In this way, these amazing animals can remain an important component of our local ecosystems.
So, the next time you spot one of these legless lizards, count yourself lucky that you had the opportunity to see this native, secretive animal.
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