Slender Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus attenuatus)

Photos by Amanda Hurst unless otherwise noted

Description: 22 – 42 in (62 – 107 cm). Glass lizards are long, slender, legless lizards that superficially resemble snakes. They differ from snakes, though, in that they have moveable eyelids, external ear openings, and inflexible jaws. As its name implies, the slender glass lizard generally slimmer than the eastern glass lizard, although both species are generally brown or yellowish in coloration. This species is best distinguished from other glass lizards by the presence of dark markings below the lateral groove, although these markings may become obscured in older individuals. Many specimens also have a dark stripe down the center of the back.

Range and Habitat: Slender glass lizards are found throughout Georgia and South Carolina but are most common in sandy areas of the Coastal Plain. Slender glass lizards tend to prefer drier habitats than eastern glass lizards and are common in old field and sandhill habitats.

Habits: Glass lizards forage actively by day in open habitats but are commonly found taking refuge beneath boards and other debris. When seized, glass lizards commonly break off all or part of their tail (which makes up more than half of their total length) which later regrows. With the predator distracted by the wriggling tail, the lizard is free to escape.

Prey: Glass lizards eat a wide variety of insects, spiders, and other invertebrates as well as small reptiles and probably young rodents. Unlike snakes, lizards have rigid jaw bones and thus are unable to eat meals larger than the size of their head.

Reproduction: In early summer, female glass lizards lay several eggs under a log, board, or other cover object. The female apparently attends the eggs until they hatch later in the summer.

Abundance: Slender glass lizards can be common in dry areas of the coastal plain and are the most common glass lizards in the Piedmont.

Notes: Glass lizards earned their name by their propensity to “shatter” by breaking their tail, often in several pieces. The common belief that these pieces can rejoin is a myth, although the tail will slowly regrow over a period of months or years.