Visitors to Hilton Head Island may have an encounter with different species of reptiles.
Alligators are easily identifiable. So are frogs. But this specific reptile may be a little more difficult for those unfamiliar with it. Its body is snake like, but in fact it is a lizard. These legless lizards have independently lost limbs or reduced them to the point of being of no use in locomotion.
At a glance, the legless lizard looks just like a snake. They forage on the ground. They propel themselves by wriggling their bodies like a snake, all be it a bit more awkwardly.
But, they are distinguishable by the following characteristics:
- possessing eyelids
- possessing external ear openings
- lack of broad belly scales
- notched rather than forked tongue
- having two more-or-less-equal lungs
- having a very long tail (while snakes have a long body and short tail)
The legless lizards you see on Hilton Head are a part of the Anguidae family, native to the Northern Hemisphere.
Common characteristics of this group include a reduced supra-temporal arch, striations on the medial faces of tooth crowns, osteoderms, and a lateral fold in the skin. They are also called slowworms, alligator lizards and glass lizards. The term “glass lizard” comes from their easily-broken tail. The tail is so fragile that it can break off without ever being touched. It is difficult to find a specimen with an undamaged tail.
These lizards are known carnivorous or insectivorous foragers, feeding primarily on insects, although larger species have been known to feed on small reptiles and amphibians.