The Florida -- or eastern -- glass lizard (Ophisaurus ventralis) is a legless lizard found throughout the coastal plain of the southeastern United States. Though they primarily consume arthropods like insects and spiders, they will also consume vertebrates like rodents, frogs and lizards.
Biology and Natural History
Called glass lizards because of their fragile tails, which break readily when grasped by a predator, these lizards lack legs and look like snakes upon first glance. Of the 13 Ophisaurus species found worldwide, four species are found in North America. Of the North American species, the Florida glass lizard is the longest, sometimes exceeding 40 inches in length. Florida glass lizards are most commonly associated with habitats that have a loose substrate; occasionally they are even found on coastal beach dunes. Glass lizards are usually diurnal, and females guard their egg clutches for the duration of incubation.
Glass lizards consume a wide variety of invertebrates including crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, spiders, scorpions, earthworms and snails. Grasshoppers are reported to form the bulk of their diet in some areas. Glass lizards will prowl for prey with their heads slightly elevated or search under cover and in burrows; in some cases the species has been known to burrow 12 inches deep into the substrate. Glass lizards grasp and quickly swallow most invertebrate prey, though some larger insects are crushed a few times with the jaws.
Glass lizards are largely indiscriminate in their feeding habits; anything small enough to be captured and consumed may be eaten. While invertebrates form the bulk of their diet, glass lizards will eat vertebrates when the opportunity presents itself. Despite their superficial resemblance to snakes, glass lizards lack the highly elastic jaw structure of snakes and are limited to prey items that are smaller than their heads.
Food for Captive Glass Lizards
Feed captive glass lizards a diet of crickets, mealworms and frozen-thawed mice. Captives should be fed insects every day or every other day; rodents should be fed less frequently. Though rodents offered to glass lizards must be small, prey with fur and bones will be processed more effectively and contain more calcium than “pink” mice. Insects should be supplemented with a high-quality vitamin and mineral supplement twice per week. Insects should be fed a nutritious, vegetable-based diet prior to being offered to your lizard to ensure optimum nutrition.
- Savannah River Ecology Laboratory: Eastern Glass Lizard
- Wild Florida Ecotravel Guide: Eastern Glass Lizard
- Your Florida Backyard: Glass Lizards
- Animal Diversity Web: Ophisaurus attenuatus
- Animal Diversity Web: Ophisaurus
- Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries: Eastern Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus ventralis)
- Melissa Kaplan's Herp Care Collection: Glass Lizard - Glass Snake - Legless Lizard
- John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images