Photo Credit: Sandy Harris
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Ophisaurus ventralis
STATUS: Common to rare in Coastal Plain, Ridge and Valley, and Piedmont. Typically encountered in mesic habitats and under debris. Low Conservation Concern.
OTHER NAMES: Joint snake, glass snake, horn snake, stinging snake
DESCRIPTION: The eastern glass lizard, Ophisaurus ventralis, is a legless lizard that can reach lengths of 42 inches. Of that, the head and body can reach a maximum length of 12 inches. An old adult may be greenish above and yellow below. It is the only glass lizard that may look green. They are easily misidentified as snakes, but have movable eyelids and external ear openings. They have a fold or distinct groove along the lower side of the body. They are stiff to the touch and like other lizards the tail breaks off easily. The tail is quickly regenerated and is usually lighter in color. This noticeable difference in color gives rise to the names horn snake and stinging snake. When handling a glass lizard, one should grab the body of the lizard firmly, not far behind the head to avoid being bit, and lightly grasping the tail to avoid breakage.
DISTRIBUTION: Eastern glass lizards can be found from North Carolina to southern Florida and west to Louisiana; there are isolated records in Oklahoma and Missouri. In Alabama, they are most common in the Coastal Plain and locally abundant in the Piedmont, Blue Ridge, and Ridge and Valley regions.
HABITAT: The eastern glass lizard is a good burrower. They typically inhabit wet meadows, grasslands and pine flatwoods.
FEEDING HABITS: The eastern glass lizard feeds on a variety of prey items it can subdue with its strong jaws. Insects and spiders are commonly preyed on, but it also feeds on bird eggs, small snakes, lizards and snails. They hunt largely by sight, responding to moving prey.
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: Little is known about the life history of the eastern glass lizard. Most mating takes place in the spring. The female normally guards the eggs during incubation and clutch size is from 5 to 17 eggs. The off-spring are 6 to 8 inches in length at birth, khaki colored with one or more dark stripes along each side. The young are independent at birth. It is most active during the day and most frequently encountered while they are crossing roads. During winter months, they hibernate in burrows below the frost line. Captives have lived for 15 years, but life expectancy in the wild is much shorter.
References: Conant, Roger: A Field Guide To Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America.
Mount, Robert: The Reptiles & Amphibians of Alabama
Harper & Row: Complete Field Guide to North American Wildlife; Eastern Edition
North Carolina Wildlife Profiles.
Author: Mitchell Marks, Wildlife Biologist, Division of Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries