New Species of Legless Lizard Discovered Near LAX
A lizard without legs is… a snake right? Not necessarily! Legless lizards are different from snakes in several ways. Unlike snakes, they have eyelids and have the ability to blink. They also move differently and shed their skin in many small flakes, rather than one whole piece. Overall, snakes are much more fluid and slithery than legless lizards.
James Parham of Cal State Fullerton has been studying legless lizards in California for over fifteen years. When he first became interested in the animals, there was only one known type of legless lizard native to California. Today, that number has risen to five, largely due to his dedication and discoveries.
The most recent lizard to be added to the Anniella family was discovered living beneath the sand dunes near LAX and has been named the Southern California legless lizard. Like the other four lizards in its family, the Southern California legless is very thin (about the width of a pencil) and does not grow longer than eight inches.
Legless lizards remain a very understudied reptile in California and scientists do not know much about their natural behavior. Although the animals do not stray very far from the place of their birth (in fact, most lizards in the Anniella family spend their lives in an area about the size of a dinner table), they are very hard to find. Parham said “[b]ecause they live under the sand, you can’t see what they are doing, and you can’t even do a mark-and-recapture because you can’t reliably capture these things.”
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