California Legless Lizard

California-Legless-Lizard(Aniella pulchra)

The California
Legless Lizard is one
of the state’s least
often seen
vertebrates.  It
superficially
resembles a snake
until you see it blink
(snakes have no
eyelids!).

It inhabits areas with warm, moist, loose soils;  from San Francisco
Bay south to Northern Baja California, as well as parts of the
southern Sierra, the southeastern deserts, and isolated portions of
the San Joaquin Valley.

Because it has a tolerance for low temperatures and doesn’t require
sunlight for basking, it is usually active around dawn and dusk near
the surface in loose soil and leaf litter, and thus, rarely observed.
Another reason it is rarely observed is its size. At the adult stage,
this animal is more slender than a pencil and only 6-7 inches in
length. While its belly sports a bright yellow color, its upper body is a
dull gray.  It feeds on larval insects, spiders, etc., and in turn, is
preyed upon by various birds, mammals and snakes.  Besides staying
out of sight, its main defense against predators is “caudal
autonomy,” the technical term for dropping its tail.

The California Legless Lizard in the Randall Museum’s collection
came to us from CuriOdyssey at Coyote Point.

 

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