Legless lizards look similar to snakes but have a few key differences which mean they are classed with lizards. One of these is an ability to lose their tail if threatened by a predator.
They lack limbs on either side of their body. The California legless lizard does not have an external ear opening. Their eye has a moveable lid.
An adult California legless lizard will be colored brown, dark brown or black across their body. A stripe runs down the backside in all individuals and several other lines may be present down the sides of the body in some individuals. In darker individuals the lines may not be visible.
Their underside tends to be whitish or a bright yellow.
Females tend to be slightly larger than the males. They have a body length of up to 22.8cm (8.98in) long with a weight of between 0.9 and 4.7g (0.03-0.17oz).
The California legless lizard is a carnivore which mostly feeds on insects. Their primary food sources are insect larva and adult beetles.
Before eating their prey they will drag it under the ground in to their burrow. They will sit in wait under leaf litter to ambush prey.
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California legless lizards are found as their name suggest in California in the United States.
They make their home in sand dunes, chaparral and coastal scrub, deserts and grasslands. Their most dense populations are seen along the coast.
They can be found hiding under logs or leaf litter, typically in damp areas.
Mating takes place during May, June and July. Young are born live after a gestation period of four months.
The average litter size is 1.3 offspring with litter size varying from one to four. It is thought that females do not give birth each year but the exact interval is not known.
Once the young emerge from their mother they are independent with no parental care provided.
Sexual maturity is reached at two years old.
Legless lizards will shed their skin in multiple pieces. This is in contrast with snakes who shed theirs in one piece.
They are primarily active during the day.
California legless lizards are rarely seen above ground spending most of their day underground or under leaf litter.
Unlike most lizards the California legless lizard can be active at lower temperatures.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the California legless lizard include snakes, lizards, mice, weasels, domestic cats and birds.
One of their main ways to avoid predation is to hide underground. If a predator grabs them they can drop their tail to escape. A new tail will regrow in its place but this is typically shorter and darker than the original. This process lasts for one year.
Humans threaten this species through human expansion, agricultural development and oil/gas exploration.
Another increasing threat is wildfires which may not impact the species directly but contribute to a loss of leaf litter.
Prior to 2013 the California legless lizard was considered one species but has now been split in to five.
This species is also known as the northern legless lizard.
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By marlin harms – Flickr: California Legless Lizard, Aniella pulchra II, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14752151
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