Eastern Glass Lizard
Ophisaurus ventralis

Common Name:

Eastern Glass Lizard

Scientific Name:

Ophisaurus ventralis



Ophisaurus is derived from the Greek words ophio meaning "snake" and sauros meaning "lizard".


ventralis is from the Latin word venter meaning "of the belly", referring to the serpentine form of locomotion used by this lizard.

Average Length:

18 - 42.6 in. (45.7 - 108.3 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

23.8 in. (60.4 cm)

Record length:

42.6 in. (108.3 cm)

Virginia Wildlife Action Plan Rating Tier II - Very High Conservation Need - Has a high risk of extinction or extirpation. Populations of these species are at very low levels, facing real threat(s), or occur within a very limited distribution. Immediate management is needed for stabilization and recovery.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: This is a medium anguid lizard of a known maximum snout-vent length (SVL) of 292 mm (11.5 inches) and maximum total length of 1082 mm (42.6 inches). The maximum known SVL and total length in Virginia are 290 mm (11.4 in.) and 604 mm (23.8 in.), respectively. There seems to be no sexual dimorphism in body size. The body is slender, serpentine, and legless. A complete tail is over twice the length of the body. Extending onto the tail is a dorsal stripe that is broad and tan. On each side above the lateral groove is a dark stripe that is black or greenish and speckled with white. Old individuals are often almost uniformly speckled greenish and white, since each of these stripes broaden with age. On lower posterior corners are white tips on black scales. Below lateral folds, there are no stripes. Both the body and the tail display a white venter. Along each side of the head and neck, between the eye and lateral groove, are three to seven vertical white bars bordered by black. Museum specimens are patterned the same, except green pigment turns black. The pattern of juveniles is similar to that of adults, except the dark lateral line is narrow (only two scale rows) and the background color of the dorsum is olive-brown. Smooth, glossy scales overlap one another and are squarish in shape. Between the lateral grooves at midbody, there are 15 or 16 scale rows. Ventrals number 105-107 and ventral rows number 10. Along the lateral groove, scales number 106-109. Infralabials are 10/10 or 11/11, and supralabials are 10/10 or 11/11. Supranasals are present, the frontonasal is separated from the rostral. Preanal scales number 7. There is a single mental and two postmentals *9286,10760*.

REPRODUCTION: Reported clutch sizes have been 7-15 eggs, with eggs averaging 18 x 10 mm. One of two captive females laid seven eggs that averaged 21.5 x 13.1 mm as found by Schwab. A female will lay the eggs in a nest and will then coil around the eggs. A nest consists of a depression in the ground under an object. Though the female stays coiled around the eggs, she does not defend the eggs as a skink would do and can, in fact be chased off easily. Also, if the nest cover is removed, the brooding female will not stay with the eggs. However, if the eggs get scattered, she will gather them. The eggs are laid from June to August and usually require 56-61 days of incubation *9286,10760*.

BEHAVIOR: This species is probably diurnal or crepuscular and spends much of its life underground. It is primarily insectivorous, eating spiders, crickets, cockroaches, beetles, and lepidopteran larvae. This carnivorous lizard will also eat snails, other lizards, and small snakes. Primary preyed upon by the eastern glass lizard are grasshoppers. Their habitat includes pine flatwoods, mesic hammock, wet meadows, and damp grassy areas. They sometimes use boards and debris for cover. During summer in Virginia, they have been found only in grassy areas. An adult was found swimming across a waterfowl impoundment. They are not territorial *9286*. When caught, this species will thrash about, bite if able, and autotomize the tail if held *10760*. The tail is about 66 percent of the body and drops off easily when the lizard is captured or harrassed. The tail then thrashes violently while the lizard slithers away. This species will hibernate from October to March. More research is needed on this species.

LIMITING FACTORS: In Virginia, the primary threat to the eastern glass lizard is construction in False Cape State Park and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge that causes a loss of this species' habitat *9286*. Predators of this species include kingsnakes and some birds.

References for Life History

  • 1021 - Smith, H.M., 1946, Handbook of Lizards, 557 pgs., Comstock Publ. Co., Ithaca, NY
  • 3067 - Conant, R., 1978, Field guide to reptiles and amphibans of eastern and central North America 2nd.ed., 429 pgs., Houghton Mifflin, Boston
  • 9286 - Terwilliger, K.T., 1991, Virginia's endangered species: Proceedings of a symposium. Coordinated by the Virginia Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries, Nongame and Endangered Species Program, 672 pp. pgs., McDonald and Woodward Publ. Comp., Blacksburg, VA
  • 10760 - Mitchell, J. C., 1994, The Reptiles of Virginia, 352 pgs., Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC


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Virginia is home to 9 native lizard species and two introduced species, the Mediterranean Gecko and the Italian Wall Lizard.


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