Ophisaurus attenuatus attenuatus
Anguidae (glass lizards) in the order Squamata (lizards and snakes)
The western slender glass lizard is Missouri’s longest species of lizard. It is often called a glass “snake” because it is long, slender, and legless. However, this is indeed a true lizards, with eyelids and an ear opening on either side of the head; snakes have neither of these characteristics. Nearly two-thirds of this lizard is tail, and a large part of it can break off if grabbed by a predator (or a person). Glass lizards are tan or brown with black stripes.
Other Common Names
Total length: 26 inches (average).
Where To Find
Presumed statewide, especially in counties with former prairie and savanna.
Habitat and Conservation
Occurs on prairies, pastures, in open woods, or on dry, rocky hillsides. Although it often takes shelter in clumps of grass or small mammal burrows, it also will burrow into loose soil. There have been reports of these lizards being plowed up by farmers working grain fields. In tall grass, this lizard easily blends in because of its coloration.
A variety of insects and other invertebrates; they also eat other lizards and the eggs of ground-nesting birds.
From April to October, this species is active during the day as long as temperatures are between 50 and 90 F. Mating occurs in May, and females produce 5–17 eggs in June and July, laying them in a rotten log or under a rock. The mother remains with them until they hatch. There is only one clutch per season. Young take 3–4 years to reach adulthood.
Often when we think about a creature’s importance to humans, we think of economic factors, but it is wise to remember that animals that enchant us, surprise us, and evoke our curiosity — such as this odd, elegant, snakelike lizard — hold an immense value that cannot be calculated in numbers.
Like most lizards, this species preys on insects and other small animals and therefore helps maintain their numbers in a natural balance. It is preyed upon by larger predators, including snakes and many mammals and birds.
About Reptiles and Amphibians in Missouri
Missouri’s herptiles comprise 43 amphibians and 75 reptiles. Amphibians, including salamanders, toads, and frogs, are vertebrate animals that spend at least part of their life cycle in water. They usually have moist skin, lack scales or claws, and are ectothermal (cold-blooded), so they do not produce their own body heat the way birds and mammals do. Reptiles, including turtles, lizards, and snakes, are also vertebrates, and most are ectothermal, but unlike amphibians, reptiles have dry skin with scales, the ones with legs have claws, and they do not have to live part of their lives in water.