Eastern Slender Glass Lizard
Ophisaurus attenuatus longicaudus

Common Name:

Eastern Slender Glass Lizard

Scientific Name:

Ophisaurus attenuatus longicaudus



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


attenuatus is Latin for "tapered" or "thin".


longicaudus consists of the Latin words longus meaning long and cauda meaning tail.

Average Length:

22 - 42 in. (56 - 106.7 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

32.3 in. (94.7 cm)

Record length:

42 in. (106.7 cm)

Virginia Wildlife Action Plan Rating Tier IV - Moderate Conservation Need - The species may be rare in parts of its range, particularly on the periphery. Populations of these species have demonstrated a significant declining trend or one is suspected which, if continued, is likely to qualify this species for a higher tier in the foreseeable future. Long-term planning is necessary to stabilize or increase populations.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: In Virginia this legless, serpentine lizard has a maximum known snout-vent length (SVL) and total length of 415 mm (16.3 in.) and 947 mm (32.3 in.), respectively. They have a deep, lateral groove along each side of the body. Smooth, glossy, overlapping scales are squarish in shape. Between lateral grooves, 14-17 scale rows are present around the midbody. There are 10 ventral rows and ventrals number 103-138. Along the lateral groove, scales number 104-114. Infralabials are usually, 10/10, 11/11, or a combination of these. Supralabials are usually 11/11, occasionally 12/12, or a combination of these. Supranasals are present. Separated from the rostral is a frontonasal. There are 8 preanal scales. And, a single mental and 2 postmentals are present. On the dorsum, a tan stripe (6 scales wide) with a narrow dark stripe bisecting it, runs from head to tail. The tail is fragile and often broken, although it regenerates some of it. The regenerated parts are a solid light brown color. Crossbands of irregular black-and-white spots connecting the middorsal stripe with lateral stripes may be present in adults. Above the lateral groove, the lateral stripes consist either of mottled black to brown with white or of alternate stripes of dark brown to black and white. There are two white, lateral stripes where the white pigment is found only on the lower half of the scales. Below the lateral groove, 1 or 2 black to brown, narrow stripes are present. Of the body, the venter is a bright solid cream color, and of the tail, the venter is also cream but may include a pattern of 4 incomplete dark brown stripes or may be patternless. Along the middorsal line, a shallow groove may be present on adults. Also in adults, a series of longitudinal ridges may be formed by slightly ridged dorsal scales *10760,11624*.

SEXUAL DIMORPHISM: Adult males are larger in size than females, and there does not appear to be any difference in color patterns *10760*. Juveniles: Generally, the juveniles have the same patterns as adults, except the dark middorsal stripe is more distinct *10760*.

CONFUSING SPECIES: The only other legless lizard is Ophisaurus ventralis but it does not have the black stripes below the lateral groove, and it does have several white lines outlined in black behind the eye *10760*.

REPRODUCTION: Little is known of mating behavior, except that head biting by a male was observed followed by his unsuccessful attempts to position his cloaca with the female's. There are 4 to 19 eggs per clutch *1014*. Females are oviparous and coil around the eggs until they hatch, which has been shown shown to take 56-60 days in the laboratory. In Kansas, the eggs of the midwestern subspecies are laid in late June and early July, and hatching occurred in mid-August and early October *10760*.

BEHAVIOR: Although this is an active lizard, this species is secretive and rarely seen, since it stays in old rodent burrows and under mats of decomposing grass and other plants. Active individuals have been observed with body temperatures ranging 23-35 degrees Celsius. Often, they bask in open areas with only a portion of the body showing. When captured it whips back and forth violently, usually breaking off part of the tail in order to escape the predator.

References for Life History

  • 1014 - Martof, B.S., Palmer, W.M., Bailey, J.R., Harrison, III J.R., 1980, Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia, 264 pgs., UNC Press, Chapel Hill, NC
  • 10760 - Mitchell, J. C., 1994, The Reptiles of Virginia, 352 pgs., Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC
  • 11624 - Mitchell, J. C., 2001, Personal Communication, Expert review for GAP Analysis Project, Mitchell Ecological Research LLC


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Verified County/City Occurrence

Amelia County
Brunswick County
Chesterfield County
Dinwiddie County
Hanover County
Isle of Wight County
King William County
Louisa County
Mecklenburg County
New Kent County
Powhatan County
Suffolk City
York County
Verified in 13 Counties/Cities.


Virginia is home to 28 species of frogs and toads.


We have a large diversity of salamanders consisting of 56 different species and subspecies.


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


The Commonwealth is home to 34 species and subspecies of snake. Only 3 species are venomous.


Virginia has 25 species and subspecies of turtle. Five of these species are sea turtle.