Eastern glass lizards have an amazing defense mechanism

Our state is home to four legless lizard species known as glass lizards.


They are named this because of their long and fragile tail that can often break into one or several pieces.

This unique defense mechanism is involuntarily employed particularly during attempted predation. In fact, the disjointed tail and/or pieces will remain innervated and continue to twitch and wiggle to distract the predator.

Most times, this distraction will allow the lizard to escape to safety and live another day. The common belief that these pieces can rejoin is a myth, although a new tail will slowly regrow over a period of months or years.

Because glass lizards are legless they are often mistaken for snakes.

These beautiful shiny lizards can be distinguished from snakes by their visible ear openings, eyelids, inflexible jaws and small scales on the belly. They are stiffer than snakes, which is probably due to the osteoderms (bony plates) under the skin. These structures seem to make the lizard’s body less flexible and even appearing brittle.

Glass lizards are the largest of Florida’s native lizards, but the most shy, secretive and challenging to see.

They spend most of their lives burrowing through soil and piles of leaves in search of insects and other food sources. They feed on insects and spiders.

Glass lizards sometimes can grow to over 3 feet long in a healthy ecosystem with plenty of food. They are stunningly beautiful and impressive looking reptiles.

Being cold-blooded, they may be seen basking on the edge of paved country roads, or crossing sandy roads in the late afternoon.

Sometimes, glass lizards will allow themselves to be approached by humans, but if you try to pick one up, they will thrash around wildly and possibly loose part of a tail.

Most common in our area is the Eastern glass lizard.

This species is found throughout the Coastal Plain from South Carolina, Georgia and south into the Florida peninsula.

Although these lizards may be found in a variety of habitats, they are most common in pine flatwood forests and around wetlands in sandy habitats.

They are also very common in coastal dune habitats and are sometimes even found beneath debris at the tide line. They are occasionally seen in suburban neighborhoods. They are often found under boards and other debris on the ground, around construction sites. Much of their time is spent underground.

The eastern glass lizard is the longest and heaviest glass lizard in our region and is generally light brown or yellowish to greenish in coloration.

This species is best distinguished from other glass lizards by the absence of a dark dorsal stripe or dark markings below the lateral groove and the presence of several vertical whitish bars just behind the head.

Older individuals are less boldly patterned than younger individuals, often developing a greenish or speckled coloration.

Glass lizards eat a wide variety of insects, spiders, crickets and other invertebrates as well as other small reptiles and likely small rodents, such a mice and voles.

To contact Mike Adams, email adamscience@windstream.net.