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Florida Worm Lizard Fact File

Appearance

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.

Diet

The Florida worm lizard is a carnivore. They feed on invertebrates which are mainly found inadvertently while they are burrowing.

florida worm lizard

Scientific Name

Rhineura floridana

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Length

25-35cm (10-14in)

Lifespan

1 years

Diet

Carnivorous

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Range

Florida worm lizards are the only Amphisbaenian which is native to the United States. Here they are found solely in the state of Florida.

Habitat

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.

florida worm lizard

Reproduction

Between 1 and 3 eggs are laid in a summer. These hatch a few months later.

Behavior

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.

florida worm lizard

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.

Quick facts

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.

florida worm lizard

Photo Credits

Top

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\

Bottom

By © Mary Keim – Own Work, CC-BY-NY-SA from https://inaturalist.nz/photos/4747833

References

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

UT News. 2021. Ancient Lone Star Lizard Lounged in Lush, Tropical Texas – UT News. [online] Available at: <https://news.utexas.edu/2016/02/22/ancient-lone-star-lizard-lounged-in-lush-tropical-texas/> [Accessed 18 March 2021].

Reptiles Magazine. 2021. The Worm Lizard – Reptiles Magazine. [online] Available at: <https://www.reptilesmagazine.com/the-worm-lizard/> [Accessed 18 March 2021].

Realmonstrosities.com. 2021. Florida Worm Lizard. [online] Available at: <http://www.realmonstrosities.com/2013/12/florida-worm-lizard.html> [Accessed 18 March 2021].

Ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu. 2021. Florida's Legless Lizards. [online] Available at: <https://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/snakes/leglesslizards.shtml> [Accessed 18 March 2021].

Encyclopedia Britannica. 2021. Florida worm lizard | reptile. [online] Available at: <https://www.britannica.com/animal/Florida-worm-lizard> [Accessed 18 March 2021].

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