Russian Glass Lizard
European Legless Lizard
European Dune Worm
Pseudopos apodus or
Russian Glass Lizards (in spite of this name) are widely distributed in Europe and parts of Eastern Asia. They range from the Balkan states in the west, south to northern Greece and east into Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. They look very similar to snakes, but have ears, eyelids and the vestiges of legs. Loosely translated, Ophisaurus literally means snake-lizard (ophio= snake, saurus=lizard). Although they look like snakes, they are true lizards with movable eyelids, belly scales and the ability to autotomize their tails. They are generally uniformly light brown to green-grey, often with specks of red. They are the largest of the legless lizards and are relatively heavy bodied animals, with adult specimens weighing a pound or more. Russian Glass Lizards can obtain lengths of more than four feet (120 cm) and can live up to 50 years in captivity. The name “Glass Lizard” comes from their ability to autotomize their tails. It has been said that the autotomized tail breaks into multiple pieces, giving the impression of shattering like glass.
Russian Glass Lizards are ground dwelling, semi-fossorial and crepuscular. They come from a wide range of habitats, including temperate forests, grasslands, rocky outcroppings and steppes, and associated woodlands. They are most commonly found within the drier areas of these habitats. They are primarily active at dawn and dusk, thereby avoiding temperature extremes.
Due to their large size, Russian Legless Lizards require ample habitat space. Enclosures should be horizontally oriented and at least as long at the animal, with the general rule, the bigger the better. The enclosure should provide a penetrable substrate (such as sterile potting soil blended with play sand) topped with leaves, pieces of bark and/or sticks and branches, and accented with rocks. When sculpting your enclosure, imagine an old growth forest floor covered in tree debris; lots of leaf litter and hiding places. A shallow water bowl is also essential. Russian Glass lizards appear most comfortable in mild temperature ranges; generally from the mid-60s to the mid 70s (Fahrenheit), but are tolerant of a much greater deviation.
In captivity, Russian Glass Lizards will eat crickets, earthworms, mealworms, superworms, small vertebrates (including other lizards), grubs, waxworms, and goliath horned worms. One of their favorite meals (to the advantage of most gardeners) includes land snails and slugs (be sure to only collect from areas where molluscicides have not been used). Although some have claimed to the contrary, it has been our experience that Russian Glass Lizards lack the speed to catch truly fast prey (perhaps this is why they have such a fondness for snails and slugs); fortunately this is rarely a problem in an enclosed environment. Russian Glass Lizards will also accept canned dog and cat food, with a particular preference for types that are ground up (usually labeled as “mixed” as opposed to “sliced” or “with gravy”). As with all reptiles and amphibians, a varied diet is essential to the glass lizard’s health.
In spite of the name “glass lizard” it has been our experience that these animals are not particularly fragile. While we are sure that with rough and improper handling these animals could and would autotomize their tails, we have never had this happen to us. One important consideration in the purchase of a glass lizard is its life span. With a possible life span of 50 years, the purchase of a glass lizard is the quintessential definition of a long term investment.
While it is generally true that Russian Glass Lizards will eventually become accustomed to being held, initial handling should be kept at a minimum and signs of stress to the lizard (hissing and the twirling of the body when being held) should be taken as a sign to leave the animal alone.
Russian Glass Lizards tend to illicit strong reactions from people; some positive, some negative. Perhaps this is due to their unique nature—they’re not quite a lizard and they’re not quite a snake. They seem to regard us almost as much as we observe them, and it has been said that they learn to recognize their keepers. Russian Glass Lizards are unique, easy to care for and hearty. This coupled with the fact that they eat both garden snails and canned pet food, makes them a simple and fun companion pet.