The Florida worm lizard is neither a lizard nor a snake which they closely resemble. These animals lie within their own sub-group of the order Squamata which is the order of lizards and snakes. This group is known as the Amphisbaenians and they are burrowing, legless lizards with scales covering their ears.
These animals are often confused for earthworms but are much longer measuring 25-35cm (10-14in) long. Some large individuals have reached 40cm (16in) long.
Their body is colored pink with the scales running in rings around the body. They have no limbs, no external ear opening and no external eye.
By having the eye covered by scale it is protected from soil while burrowing but they can still tell light from dark.
To prevent the nostrils filling with soil while burrowing they point backwards.
The Florida worm lizard is a carnivore. They feed on invertebrates which are mainly found inadvertently while they are burrowing.
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Florida worm lizards are the only Amphisbaenian which is native to the United States. Here they are found solely in the state of Florida.
They make their home in the sandhills and oak forests through North and Central Florida. Most of their time is spent underground in sandy soil.
Between 1 and 3 eggs are laid in a summer. These hatch a few months later.
Almost all of their life is spent underground where they will burrow. Occasionally they are seen at the surface mainly after heavy rains. They are also uncovered by farmers ploughing their field.
They dig their own fresh tunnels by pushing through the soil with their skull.
These animals are limited in their ability to regulate their body temperature which confines them to tropical and sub-tropical areas.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the Florida worm lizard include birds such as the mockingbird. These often are looking for earthworms and find this species by mistake.
The Florida worm lizard is the only remaining member of its sub-group, Rhineuridae.
Amphisbaenia comes from a term meaning to “go both ways.” This comes from the ability to move forward and backward through their burrow.
By © Alexis Zora – Own Work, CC-BB-NC from https://inaturalist.nz/photos/60562929
Middle One and Two
By © floridensis – Own Work – CC-BY-NC from https://inaturalist.nz/photos/54529235\
By © Mary Keim – Own Work, CC-BY-NY-SA from https://inaturalist.nz/photos/4747833
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