Legless Lizard Vs Snake: The Reptiles Difference Simplified For Kids!

Aashita Dhingra
Oct 24, 2023 By Aashita Dhingra
Originally Published on Nov 11, 2021
around 200 legless lizard species have been discovered
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.1 Min

Have you ever confused a legless lizard for a snake?

Well, you are not the only one finding it hard to tell them apart. Legless lizards and snakes belong to the Reptilia class of animals, and they have several similarities and differences too.

Legless lizards are generally described as those lizard groups with reduced, short limbs or without limbs. They generally have silver, black, brown, and beige body coloration or stripes, and one cannot tell them apart from snakes as they have physical features like them.

They also crawl like snakes. Legless lizards weigh around 11-21 oz (311.85-595.34 g), with a body length of about 24-36 in (60.96-91.44 cm).

Snakes commonly weigh between 5-77.16 lb (2.27-35 kg) and have a body length of around 3-42 ft (0.92-12.80 m).

As per records, around 200 legless lizard species have been discovered, and the glass lizard is common among them. On the other hand, more than 3400 snakes have been discovered and classified, out of which they are further divided into 25 snake families.

Even though snakes and legless lizards look similar, make sure you can identify and differentiate these reptiles as you can mistake them, which can be very dangerous. Overall, legless lizards are safer than snakes, as they do not bite even when humans hold them, while snakes can be quite aggressive and venomous.

Glass lizards from the family Anguidae, are mostly mistaken to be a snake since they look quite similar. But one can tell their difference through various factors including their external ear and eyelids which snakes do not acquire.

Snakes do not possess visible or observable ear openings.

Also, glass lizards have belly scales, while snakes are fully covered with scales. These lizards can be found in different parts of the world, including Europe, Australia, America, and many more.

For more similar content, you can also check out did you know? 15 incredible striped legless lizard facts and mongoose vs cobra.

What is the difference between a legless lizard and a snake?

Many known lizard families are legless or with short, invisible limbs, which makes them appear more like snakes. Many physical features and details will be provided here to help you differentiate these reptiles.

One of the things to remember is that snakes are more aggressive and dangerous than legless lizards. Snakes are often ferocious predators, that prey on bigger animals, while lizards prefer insects for their meal. Their variations can be seen right from their ears, eyes, body structure, and much more.

If a snake-like reptile has earholes on the sides of its head, then they are legless or glass lizards, and not snakes since snakes do not have visible ear holes on their heads. Lizards have visible and bigger eyelids, while snakes don't have them.

When it comes to their habitats, many legless lizards generally prefer to spend most of their life close to the surface or mostly underground, which is very dissimilar to snakes. You can also separate these reptiles through their tongue features.

Legless lizards have tongues that are fleshy, so if the reptile you spot has forked tongues, then they are snakes.

But, lizards like monitor lizards have been observed to acquire forked tongues. The creature that you have spotted is a legless lizard if it acquired moveable eyelids.

Legless or limbless lizard species like glass lizards have scales on their belly and soft body, but snakes have their body fully covered with scales. As a predator, there are also distinctions when it comes to their prey.

Snakes like to prey on large animals, while lizards prefer to prey on small insects.

One of the interesting facts about legless lizards is that they can leave or disconnect their tail when a predator tries to attack them, acting as their defense mechanism. This cannot be done by snakes as they have shorter tails than legless lizards.

In this matter, their tails work as a safeguard from a lizard's predator. Also, legless lizards are not poisonous or venomous in any way, while a lot of snakes are.

Are legless lizards and snakes related?

Snakes and legless lizards belong to different families, and this is firstly enough to say that they are not the same. They do not come from similar or the same ancestors.

The process of animals becoming or turning into more alike bodies is scientifically known as evolved convergent. However, this necessarily does not signify that they are linked in any way.

Legless lizards have been greatly discovered in Europe. This species of lizards have generally evolved as limblessness, where they have limbs but are no use to them whatsoever.

They have a long tail compared to a snake, and their tongue is fleshy, far from a snake's forked tongue. With many underlying physical distinctions, even though they may appear alike, these reptile species are not related in any way. It's just that some species of lizards, during the last decades have evolved as a snake-like appearance.

legless lizards are safer than snakes

Are legless lizards evolving into snakes?

Beyond their similar physical features, legless lizards, particularly glass lizards, are not evolving or turning into snakes. It is undeniable that they both are slender, long, and crawl to move around, and that they belong to the same class, known as a reptile. However, this definitely is not enough to say these lizards are evolving into snakes.

Over the years, many animals have evolved from their original physical appearance to a completely different one. But this does not make them change their families or ancestors.

The same applies to these creatures. Snakes and lizards have different ancestors and even though a legless lizard, over the years may have evolved to appear like snakes, without limbs or legs, they are still lizards and not snakes. Their overall appearance may be simply alike to snakes.

But distinctions can be made through their eyes, ears, and much more. Most legless lizards have striped, glossy and smooth coloration comprising of black, brown, light yellow, and gray or silver.

How did legless lizards lose their legs?

Some kinds of lizards have evolved, where, in the process, they lose their limb. About 60-62 million years ago, a lizard species known as skinks lost their legs.

They were burrowing reptiles that no longer needed them. As scientists described, they were pretty much more comfortable crawling or pushing themselves through loose, desert-like dry soil without the help of their legs.

This reptile was mostly swimming rather than walking, on loose soils and sands. Scientists believed that not only were their legs useless for them, but it was quite a hindrance or obstruction for them to move around.

For moving around, their tails are often utilized. According to scientific discovery, when animals no longer need certain parts of their body, or when their particular body part becomes useless to them, they usually disappear as they evolve.

Similarly, it is believed that snakes lost their legs 100 million years ago or more since they didn't need them anymore, however, it is not certain whether their ancestors were terrestrial or aquatic.

Another beneficial thing to legless lizards' evolved bodies is that their skin became more smooth, glossier, with some scales on their belly to make crawling easier. Legless lizards also make good and friendly pets for lizard lovers.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions forlegless lizard vs snake, then why not take a look atgoat vs lamb meat, orpangolin vs armadillo faceoff.

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Written by Aashita Dhingra

Bachelors in Business Administration

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Aashita DhingraBachelors in Business Administration

Based in Lucknow, India, Aashita is a skilled content creator with experience crafting study guides for high school-aged kids. Her education includes a degree in Business Administration from St. Mary's Convent Inter College, which she leverages to bring a unique perspective to her work. Aashita's passion for writing and education is evident in her ability to craft engaging content.

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