Slender Glass Lizard Ophisaurus attenuatus

Adult from northeastern Illinois
Adult from Jasper County

Identification: Not all legless reptiles in Indiana are snakes; meet the glass lizard. These unique lizards have glossy-smooth scales and can be distinguished from snakes readily by their external ear openings and eyelids (they can blink). Most glass lizards are brown to tan with dark stripes from head to tail tip at mid body and laterally. There are also diffuse dark spots on the side of the head. These legless lizards get their name from being “fragile” (like glass). When picked up, they readily break off part, or all, of their tail. To reiterate, their tails are not simply easy to accidentally pull off, the animal can, and often will, fracture the tail itself. Given that their tails are a large proportion of their overall length, glass lizards may appear to break in half when picked up or even touched. Adults may reach two to three feet (60-90 cm) in overall length, making this Indiana’s largest lizard.

Similar Species: Glass lizards are incredibly unique reptiles and are almost impossible to mistake for other lizard species. The distinctively non-serpentine facial characteristics mentioned above can quickly separate them from any Indiana snake as well.

Sandy Scrub in Newton County

Distribution: These fascinating lizards are denizens of remnant prairies and savannahs in northwestern Indiana. Here, they are most often associated with oak-savannahs and sand prairies, but may be found in partially forested areas and even in the vicinity of wetlands.

Distribution Map
Distribution map of Slender Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus attenuatus)
Photographs