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Glass Lizard

Last updated date: 28th Feb 2024
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What is a Glass Lizard?

Glass lizards are placed under the genus Ophisaurus in the family Anguidae. The glass lizards are also known as glass snakes. The glass snake lizard is placed under the category of lizards as they can easily break off their tails. The Eastern glass lizard, Ophisaurus ventralis can easily be encountered in southeastern North America. Further, the Eastern glass lizards can grow about the length of 105cm.  The head and body of the lizards are only accompanied 30 to 35 percent of their total length. Generally, glass lizards have no legs so they resemble snakes.  Even the upper and lower sides of the body have equal size scales for both lizards and snakes  But the giant glass lizards have ears, moveable eyelids and non-expandable jaws, through this the glass lizards and snakes can easily be differentiated. 

O. attenuatus is a species of lizard glass which is widely distributed in southeastern North America northwestward into the upper Mississippi River valley. Here, the O. ventralis have broadband along each lower side of the body and the O. attenuatus has narrow dark lines in their lower side of the body.  Both the  O. ventralis and O. attenuatus species prefer loose soil, or with leaves and grass or under roots or stones.  

O. apodus, a species of glass tail lizard, is widely found across southwestern Asia, southeastern Europe and northern Africa. O. apodus can grow about 120 cm long. The glass snake lizards will lay modest clutches of eggs of about 5 to 15 eggs. Each clutch is often protected by their females. Most of the glass lizards are inhabited in the grasslands or open forest environments and consumes a large variety of invertebrates available in their surroundings. 

The below table shows the entire taxonomic classification of Glass lizard. 













Scientific Name


The glass lizards are widely spread over in many countries of Africa, Asia, North America, Europe and Eurasia. 

(Image will be Uploaded Soon)

This image shows the glass lizard present in a rough surface. 

Characteristics of Glass Lizard

Physical Characteristics of Glass Lizards 

The bodies of slender glass lizards look yellow to brown bodies. The bodies of western glass lizards have six stripes and have a mid dorsal stripe. In the middle of the glass are lizards, and contain White specks and sometimes they form light stripes. O. attenuatus can grow up to the length of 0.56 m (22 in) to 0.91 m (36 in). The O. attenuatus species characteristics are closely related to collared lizards. Their tail occupies the two-third of their body length. The scales of the glass snake lizard are assisting to make the body hard and stiff. This species especially has a pointed snout and a non-distinct head. The sexual diaphragm is almost absent in giant glass lizards. The males and females of the glass lizards are similar sizes.  The marking appearing on the skin of glass lizards may fade away when they get aged.  The glass lizards appear in black, brown, yellow, grey, tan and green in colours. 

The slender glass lizards will face more difficulties to move across the smooth surface.  Because the glass lizards do not have the large belly plates and related muscles of snakes. The body of the snakes is more flexible in the smooth surface while compared to the Glass lizards as they have different scale shapes. The forked tongue of glass lizards helps them to catch their prey and sense their surroundings. 

The western glass lizards look long, legless, slender lizards they resemble more like snakes. The common eastern and slender glass lizards are generally looking smaller than the mimic glass lizards. The mimic glass lizards also look in colouration of brown and yellow. The species of the glass lizards can well distinguish with the presence of several dark stripes down each side of the body, above the lateral groove, and a dark dorsal stripe.

Behavioural Characteristics 

The glass snake lizard is generally diurnal, which means they are active both day and night. So, they can move fast. The Glass lizards have a smooth body surface, while vigorously catching them vigorously can break off their tails or get cut into one or more pieces. They are mainly utilizing their wiggling tails to distract their potential predators. So that they can easily escape from their predators. The Glass snake lizards will utilize the burrows borrowed from other animals for their sleep and they also use those burrows for undergoing hibernation. These species are more active during the days only during the cool weather. But they are only active during the dawn and dusk during the summer season or when the temperature is hot. Like snakes, the glass lizard species also hibernate in a hibernaculum. These species will also create their own burrows in the sandy soil but depend on other animals in other sticky soils. The glass tail lizards get themselves hibernates from October to April or May. 

The glass lizards have unique adaptations to regrow their cut tails. But, the tails never regrow completely to their original size and causes the tails to become shorter each time after their every attack. As the tail of the lizard glass can be broken easily they are termed slender glass lizards. These species can cut off their tail without even being touched and the partial tail can regenerate in tan, but the regenerated glass lizard tails do not have the pattern of the original tail. A piece of the tail will start to grow and continue once broken off. The two common beliefs are spread around the world that the pieces of a broken tail can grow into new lizards, or rejoin into a new tail. As per the study in 1989, 79% of the lizards locating in the population area had broken tails. Also, it is very hard to find a slender glass lizard with its entire original tail. Some species of glass lizards can also bite when they are threatened. Even when a predator is approaching them the lizard will sometimes stay still and try to blend in with the vegetation to escape from the predators.

Diets and Predators of Glass Lizards

The glass lizards are following the carnivorous food habit. The western glass lizards will mostly consume small invertebrates available from their surroundings. Glass lizards intake a range of insects like spiders, small rodents,  grasshoppers, crickets and beetles, and snails. They also eat small lizards and small snakes. Like snakes, glass lizards do not have flexible jaws, so they can consume only a limited size of prey items. The glass lizards cannot intake their food, which is larger than the size of their head. They also consume forage under the burrows. The folds present in their skin will help them to expand their body while breathing, eating large meals and when they are carrying and transferring eggs. 

Broad-winged hawks, opossums,  bobcats,  coyotes, red-tailed hawks, and raccoons are the major predators of the lizard. Snakes will also catch glass lizards for their prey include the ring-necked snake (Diadophis punctatus), eastern racer (Coluber constrictor), prairie kingsnake (Lampropeltis calligaster), common kingsnake (Lampropeltis getula), and copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix).

Reproduction Cycle of Glass Lizards

The Glass lizards will go for mating only once in two years. They usually mate in the month of May. After mating, the female species will lay 5 to 15 eggs of oval shape during late June or July. The glass lizards will hatch the eggs for 50 to 60 days after laying their eggs. Their mother will stay beside their eggs to incubate and protect them from predators. The female glass lizards will lay eggs under objects, which can cover the eggs like a log or board. The eggs will mature and hatch after 53 days of the incubation period. The young one comes out from the eggs in the month of August to October. The young hatchlings are at the length of 10–13 cm (3.9–5.1 inches). So, they are difficult to find in the environment. The young hatchlings will attain sexual maturity at the age of three to four. 

The eastern glass lizards will go for mating during late May and early June. After mating the female lizards will seek cover under a bark, board, log, or leaves.  Further, they start laying a clutch of 7 to 15 eggs and enter into incubation. During their incubation period, the female eastern glass lizards will coil over the eggs and remain stagnant until the eggs get hatched after 50 to 60 days. The female lizards will not actively defend their eggs and usually cover the eggs gently if the nest remains uncovered. Even in eastern glass lizards, there is no typical difference in the body sizes of male and female lizards. But the male slender glass lizards look slightly larger than the female lizards. Likewise, the glass lizards do not have any colour based sexual difference among the two species.  Even there is not sufficient information to know about the mimic glass lizard to determine if size and colouration differ according to gender.

Facts about Glass Lizards 

  1. Glass lizards have eyes and eyelids, so they can open and close their eyes and protect themselves from external obstacles. However, the snakes don’t have eyelids, their eyes are protected by the transparent layer which is located above the eyes. 

  2. The glass lizards spend most of their life in solitary because they are shy and squirmy. 

  3. The glass lizards won’t cause any harm to a human being, even while they are picked up by a human being. 

  4. In most of the species, the glass lizards do not have legs. But few species will have small pairs of legs, which are located near to their rear vents. 

  5. Most of the lizard species have special characteristics that they can survive even without tails. Some terminate off their own tails when they are targeted by the predators. Also, they will keep squirming their tails to distract their predators.  They can regrow their tails but it won't be its original size. 

  6. The slender glass lizards are oviparous, so they will reproduce by laying eggs like snakes. So, many will confuse between slender glass lizards and snakes

FAQs on Glass Lizard

Q1. Are Glass Lizards Dangerous?

Ans: Glass lizards are completely harmless to humans and nonvenomous creatures. They are very soft and easily damaged, so one who needs to handle them should treat them gently and grasp them by their upper body. Because just a little force on them is enough to restrain it from thrashing and detaching their tails. 

Q2. Why is a Glass Lizard Not a Snake?

Ans: The glass lizards and snakes are extremely different because of their characteristics. The glass lizards have moveable eyelids, but snakes do not have eyelids. The glass lizards have ear openings, but snakes do not have ear openings. The glass lizards also have some unique characteristics like legless lizards, glass moniker and the most predominant characteristic is they can detach their tails when they need to protect themselves from predators. 

Q3. Do Glass Lizards' Tails Grow Back?

Ans: Glass lizards look superficially like snakes with the long, slender, legless body. The glass lizards are soft creatures, when they are seized then the body or part of the tails of glass lizards get to break off, meanwhile, they can regrow in later days. They also can detach their wiggling tails to free themselves from predators. 

Q4. How Long Do Glass Lizards Live?

Ans: The average lifespan of glass lizards is about years. While monitoring the reproduction, the female glass lizards can lay 8-17 eggs between June to August. After laying the eggs, the glass lizard will coil around the eggs and protect them for about two months until the eggs get hatched.

Q5. How Big Do Glass Lizards Get?

Ans: On average, the glass lizards can grow up to 18 to 43 inches ie, 46-108 cm. The glass lizards look like long, slender, legless lizards and superficially resemble snakes. Meanwhile, the glass lizards have moveable eyelids, flexible jaws and external ear openings.