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Eastern Glass Lizard

State Threatened

One of only nine lizards native to Virginia, the Eastern Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus ventralis) is a legless lizard. Found in only a few locations, the Eastern Glass Lizard is the rarest lizard in the state. At first glance a glass lizard may be mistaken for a snake, but they have distinct differences. Glass lizards have movable eye lids that can close, but snakes have a fixed scale over their eyes and cannot shut them. Glass lizards also have external ear openings, whereas snakes do not.

Like their name suggests, glass lizards have very fragile tails. If disturbed by a predator or human, a glass lizard will thrash and drop its tail if necessary. Referred to as caudal autonomy, it is a defense mechanism seen in many species of lizards. The dropped tail may even wiggle, keeping the interest of a predator. This allows the lizard to escape to safety while the predator is distracted. Glass lizards have the ability to regenerate their tails, but doing so is very time consuming. Two thirds of their total length is just their tail!

Glass lizards can be found in sandy habitats, pine flatwoods or wetlands. They forage during the day for insects, spiders and even small reptiles. Though common in some areas, the populations in Virginia are the most northern of their range. Eastern Glass Lizards are listed as State Threatened in Virginia and have only been found in Virginia Beach.