Bio Facts: Lizard, Eastern Glass
Eastern Glass Lizard
North Carolina to south Florida and west to Louisiana (isolated records exist of its occurrence in Oklahoma and Missouri)
Wet meadows, grasslands and pine flatwoods; in southern Florida, it is also found in tropical hardwood hammocks.
Adults grow to 18 – 42.5 in. (46-108.3 cm) in length, although the head-body length is only 12 in. (30.5 cm) at most. There are 98 or more scales along the lateral groove. In this species, no dark longitudinal stripes are present below the lateral groove or under the tail, and there is no distinct mid-dorsal stripe. The neck is marked with a series of mostly vertical, or highly irregular, white marks. White markings on posterior corners of scales. Dorsally, older specimens have a pattern consisting of numerous longitudinal dark lines or dashes. Occasionally, similar parallel lines cover the entire mid-dorsal area. Older adults may be greenish above and yellow below; this is the only Ophisaurus species that may have a greenish appearance. Juveniles are khaki-colored and usually have two dark stripes that run down the back.
Maximum 14.8 years (in captivity)
In the wild they eat a range of insects, such as grasshoppers, crickets and beetles, and will also consume spiders, small mice, snails, and the eggs of other reptiles and ground-nesting birds; in the Zoo they are fed insects.
The Eastern glass lizard is a diurnal lizard, foraging in open areas during the day, but is often found taking shelter under boards and other types of shelter. Although it resembles a snake, the eastern glass lizard is a legless lizard. Unlike snakes, it has eyelids and ear openings on the side of the head.
Mating occurs during spring. Eggs are laid in early summer (June and July), under some kind of cover such as boards or logs. Approximately 8-17 eggs are laid and they take 56-61 days to hatch. The female coils around the eggs in the nest but does not defend the eggs as skinks do. The young then grow on a diet of small invertebrates such as insects and arachnids. Adults can also eat small reptiles and even probably young rodents.
If attacked, the tail breaks off and continues to wiggle, distracting the predator while the rest of the lizard escapes. The ease with which the tail breaks is the basis of its common name. The tail is regenerated in a few weeks.
The Eastern Glass Lizard was first reported by Linnaeus, 1766.
The genus name, Ophisaurus, is derived from the Greek words ophio meaning “snake” and sauros meaning “lizard”. The species name, ventralis, is from the Latin word venter meaning “of the belly”, referring to the serpentine form of locomotion used by this lizard.
The benefits of prescribed fire to endangered species and other wildlife in Southeast Florida natural communities are well documented (Myers and Ewel, op. cit.), in particular for the many threatened and endangered species found in Savannas Preserve State Park (Marti et al. 2005. Endangered Species Update 22:18-28; Cowan 2005. Endangered Species Update 22:29-39). However, during post-burn evaluations following five prescribed bums and two wildfires, dead Eastern Glass Lizards (Ophisaurus ventralis) were observed within three distinct conservation areas in Southeast Florida (including Savannas Preserve) between January 2003 and March 2004. Burned areas were surveyed to characterize the fires and at the same time were canvassed for wildlife mortality. Ophisaurus ventralis was the only lizard species for which mortalities were observed. One dead O. ventralis was found on each of two prescribed fires conducted at J. W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area, Palm Beach County Florida, on 15-16 January 2003. Burn unit sizes were 14.2 ha and 4.0 ha, respectively. One dead specimen was also observed following a 32.4-ha prescribed burn conducted on the North Fork St. Lucie River Preserve State Park, St. Lucie County Florida on 28 January 2003. On 15 January 2004, search of a 12.1-ha prescribed burn on a separate parcel of land within the boundaries of the same park revealed 8 dead specimens. Three post-burn observations were made at Savannas Preserve State Park, Martin and St. Lucie Counties, Florida. On 26 November 2003 following a 6.1 ha prescribed burn, one dead lizard observed; 30 July 2003 following a 0.8 ha wildfire, one dead lizard observed; and, a single dead lizard was also found following a 87.4-ha wildfire on 22 March 2004. Unlike many other amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals in Southeast Florida adapted to and dependent upon fire (Cowan, op cit.; Marti et al., op cit.), these observations suggest that this species, often associated with dense herbaceous growth, appears susceptible to some level of fire-induced mortality. Therefore, it may be to this species’ benefit to apply patchy prescribed burns resulting in a mosaic of burned and unburned areas.
Jacksonville Zoo History:
The eastern glass lizard has been part of the Jacksonville Zoo collection off-and-on since at least 1966.