Burton's Legless Lizard
Lurking and Legless - This Slippery Buddy Is Not What It Seeeeems
This slithery buddy is often mistaken for a snake at first glance, and it's an easy mistake to make. However, the Burton's Legless Lizard is actually more closely related to geckoes than to snakes! It's important to know how to spot the distinctive marks of this lizard, because it's a harmless and interesting pal to have around your garden.
There are key differences between snakes and this deceptive looking lizard. A good one to look for is the shape of its face. A Burton's Legless Lizard has a wedge-shaped snout that sets it apart from both snakes and other lizards.
The Burton's Legless Lizard also sports a pair of obvious ear openings on either side of its head. Unlike a snake, it has a broad, flat, and fleshy tongue. Click here to see a picture of its unusual tongue. If you get close enough, you can also look out for the very subtle marks of their tiny hind limbs, which a snake will not have.
In September, the Burton's Legless Lizard in southern Australia will be looking for a mate. Come summertime, the female will lay 1-3 parchment-shelled eggs under a log, rock, on the ground or even in the nest of sugar ants! In northern Australia, Burton's Legless Lizard breed at other times of the year, but still keep an eye out, as you might spot a communal nest with up to 20 eggs in it.
These lizards may look scary, and they can hiss and rear when threatened, but if you have definitely spotted a Burton's Legless Lizard then you don't need to worry. They are not dangerous at all, despite the bluff they put on if cornered.
Apart from camouflage skills, the Burton's Legless Lizard's most useful defense mechanism is its ability to drop its tail if attacked. This is quite the makeover, as its tail can make up three quarters of its body. This is known as 'tail autotomy'. No, that's not a typo! 'Autotomy' comes from the Greek words for 'self' and 'severing'. These versatile lizards are luckily able to regenerate and grow another tail.
The Burton's Legless Lizard is quite the picky eater! It mostly loves to eat small reptiles, such as skinks and even other legless lizards. Like a snake, the legless lizard lies in wait until the time is right to pounce, with speed and accuracy.
A Burton's Legless Lizard has a special hinge across its skull, that allows it to completely encircle their prey. It's flexible jaw can dislocate and wrap completely around its victim. The legless lizard grabs its prey around the chest, suffocating it and then eating the head first.
Burton's Legless Lizard can be spotted across most of Australia, except on the southern coast of Australia and Tasmania. Keep an eye out in your garden on hot summer nights, as they are nocturnal in warm areas.
In cooler states, they are active during the day and occasionally pop up during overcast days. They like grasslands, beaches, woodlands and rainforests and can often be found sheltering under fallen timber, so look out for them if you go for a walk.
DID YOU KNOW?The legless lizard does not have eyelids! To keep their eyes moist and clean, they have to reach up and lick their eyes with their tongues.
TIPTo be a good buddy to the legless lizard, make sure you securely cover your backyard pool, as you may just find a lizard in it who has fallen in by accident. Take care when mowing your lawn as well, in case a legless lizard or blue tongue is out and about.