Western Slender Glass Lizard

Ophisaurus attenuatus attenuatus
Other Common Name
Glass Snake
Family

Anguidae (glass lizards) in the order Squamata (lizards and snakes)

Description

This is Missouri’s longest species of lizard. It is often called a glass “snake” because it is long, slender, and legless. However, these are true lizards, with eyelids and an ear opening on either side of the head; snakes have neither of these characteristics. Nearly two-thirds of the 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.

Size

Total length: 26 inches (average).

Glass Lizard

A snake-like creature, tan with black stripes, moves through the underbrush. It is shaped like a question mark, with the head curved and the long tail straight.
Glass Lizard in Kirksville
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.

Foods

A variety of insects and other invertebrates; they also eat other lizards and the eggs of ground-nesting birds.

image of Western Slender Glass Lizard Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Presumed statewide, especially in counties with former prairie and savanna.

Life cycle

From April to October, this species is active during the day as long as temperatures are between 50 and 90 degrees 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.

Human connections

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.

Ecosystem connections

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.