Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hard To Find Like A Worm Lizard, I Am


Sorry, I missed posting for a few days ... not like me to do that. Somehow the 24 hours that we are all allotted each day did not include time to post.
Imagine that.

Above, you see the smiling face of a Worm Lizard. That flat, shovel-shaped forehead allows him to shove dirt aside as he digs through our sandy soil. He's a legless lizard who lives a subterranean lifestyle ... which means you may never have seen one.
(Unless you read an earlier post here at PF about this animal)

Last week, one of my students brought this one to me. It was a great specimen, uninjured and very animated.
In my experience, the few times I have found one of these while digging has almost always involved some injury to the lizard by whatever I was using to dig... shovel, tiller, etc.


They DO look wormy. My students thought he was pretty neat and only one or two had ever seen one.
I took him home and released him on a sandy mound left by another subterranean creature, the pocket gopher.

video

Here's about 30 seconds of worm lizard digging. Be sure to turn up the volume so you can enjoy the calls of the parenting hawks in my back woods.

18 comments:

Dani said...

Very cool! Are they endemic?

Sandcastle Momma said...

Is that the same thing as a skink?
We have skinks here but they're much longer - about 2 feet and are dark brown.
He's definitely an interesting critter.

David Steen said...

A two foot long skink? Picture please.

threecollie said...

The herp critter is amazing! Never seen one myself.
What are those birdies in the background?

Jason R said...

What is even neater is that it is neither a worm or a lizard. It is in a group of reptiles called an Amphisbaenid (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amphisbaenia). And weirdly enough this is the second Florida blog in two days that has uncovered them. Hope to see one in the wild someday myself. Cf., Florida Nature Adventures: Herp Cover Boards (http://floridadayadventures.blogspot.com/2009/04/herp-cover-boards.html)

Floridacracker said...

Dani,
Yes, native as the sand.

SCMomma,
Whatever it is you are seeing is not a skink!
Perhaps a glass lizard?

David,
What do you think,... maybe a glass lizard is what she's spotted?

3C,
It's a family (sounded like chick noise in there) of hawks ... They have been calling like crazy. I'm guessing red shouldered, but I'm sure a bird nerd will ID them before the day is out.

Jason,
You will have to dig to do that ... or check out gopher mounds on cool mornings. They come up into them to warm themselves. Thanks for the input!

Sandcastle Momma said...

I looked up the glass lizard and that's sort of what they look like but they live underground. I usually don't see them unless I'm digging and then they come up with the shovel of dirt. They can dig back into the ground faster than any worm I've seen.
They have no legs but they aren't snakes so I thought they were skinks.

Sandcastle Momma said...

I have a picture of one we found recently. This one is a little smaller than most I've seen here in the yard.

http://sandcastlemomma.blogspot.com/2008/10/urban-snakes.html

miscmarci said...

That's the strangest little thing I've seen in a long time! Fascinating! :D

Floridacracker said...

SCMomma,
Went there and it is a glass lizard, but you are right, very skinky in appearance.

Miscmarci,
Welcome to Pure Florida! And yes, they are both fascinating and strange!

TROLL Y2K said...

pale or pinkish wormlike lizard characterized by the absence of limbs, external eyes, or ear openings, representing the only living member of the amphisbaenian family Rhineuridae. (Amphisbaenians are a group of burrowing, limbless lizards with concealed ears and scale-covered eyes.) It is known only from the peninsula of Florida in the United States; however, fossils from the northern Plains indicate that the family had a much wider distribution in the past. R. floridana has a long wormlike body and a short stubby tail. It grows to a length of 18–38 cm (7–15 inches), and it preys on spiders, worms, and termites. It is an egg-laying species, and females deposit eggs from which tiny fully formed young emerge.

I gather from the above that there are a lot of Worm Lizards in the world but Florida has it's own distinct version. If so, I think we should name it the OFFICIAL STATE ICKY THING.

My "word verification" is "modalogy". That might be a real word!

cndymkr / jean said...

Wow. I've never seen one before. I'm not sure I would have even noticed that it wasn't a worm. I love coming here and learning new things!

Sandcastle Momma said...

Thanks FC - I've learned something new today!

NativeMom said...

Smile? Which end is its face?

lisa said...

Wow, awesome close-up, I wish I had a camera that could take good pictures like that.

Miz S said...

I love that your students bring you things like that.

Ericka said...

it's smiling? are you sure?

VERY cool little critter. i love the little claws on the baja worm lizard - so cute!

i hope you stayed until s/he was entrenched - i imagine s/he'd make a tasty little hawk snack. ok. night. owl snack? well, they were up with the kids anyway, hawk snack.

Floridacracker said...

Troll,
Too funny. I might reserve that title for slime molds and certain politicians.

C/Jean,
Thanks! The kids were convinced it was a worm at first too.

SCMomma,
You are welcome. Thanks for the input.

NativeMom,
True, it can be confusing at first, but you can even see it's weak vestigial eyes if you look closely.

Lisa,
i love this little Sony. Not the latest and greatest anymore, but what a good camera!

Miz S,
Me too!

Ericka,
I did. In fact I videoed the whole thing, but it took him 4 minutes, so I just gave you guys a clip.