Florida's Legless Lizards thumbnail photo of snake identification guide cover

Florida is home to two groups of legless lizards that are often mistaken for snakes--the glass lizards and wormlizards.

Glass Lizards

There are four species of glass lizards found in Florida, all belonging to the scientific genus Ophisaurus. They range in size from 15-40 inches long and are usually tan, brown, or greenish, often with dark lengthwise stripes on their backs, and have pale yellow-tan bodies. Glass lizards are legless, and their long tails give them a very snake-like appearance. Unlike snakes, they have moveable eyelids and external ear openings. Glass lizards have very smooth, shiny scales that are reinforced by bones called 'osteoderms,' making the lizards' bodies very hard and brittle. As a result, their tails break easily and they are often seen with broken tails in the process of regrowth. Glass lizards also move a bit more stiffly than snakes, and have a long groove down each side of their hard bodies that allows them to expand when they breathe or are full of food, or when females are full of eggs. They can easily be recognized as harmless by their slender heads and lack of a neck. Glass lizards live in wet meadows, grasslands, pine flatwoods, pine scrubs, hardwood hammocks, and other open woods, and are occasionally seen in suburban neighborhoods. They are often found under boards and other debris on the ground, and at least two species spend much of their time burrowed underground.

Island Glass Lizard

photo of island glass lizard showing dark stripes on tan body and hard, shiny scales

Photo by J.D. Willson. This photo may not be used for any purpose without the express written permission of the photographer.


There is only one species of wormlizard in Florida, the Florida Wormlizard (Rhineura floridana). Wormlizards are neither snakes nor true lizards, but belong to their own unique group, the amphisbaenids (pronounced am-fizz-bee-nids). As their name suggests, wormlizards look much like large, pink earthworms; unlike earthworms, they have scales arranged in segment-like rings around their bodies. They are much larger than earthworms, ranging in size from 7-11 inches long, and may be misidentified as odd-looking snakes. Florida Wormlizards spend their entire lives underground in habitats with sandy soils, and have no eyes or external ear openings. They may be forced aboveground by heavy rains, and are sometimes seen on paved surfaces in suburban neighborhoods after storms. Florida Wormlizards, like glass lizards, are completely harmless.

Florida Wormlizard

photo of Florida wormlizard showing pink, earthworm-like body

Photo by Steve A. Johnson. This photo may not be used for any purpose without the express written permission of the photographer.