Ophisaurus apodus is a limbless species of lizard, and looks similar to a snake. However, the holes that are present on each side of the head are ears, which distinguish it from snakes (1). There is a prominent groove which runs down each side of the lizard, which sets it apart from other limbless species (2). It can reach a length of up to 140 cm in length, with the tail comprising more than half of this. It is a thick, robust bodied species of glass lizard, which is able to shed its tail if it is grabbed (2).
It is typically a uniform colour of pale brown, which can darken with age whilst the head remains a pale colour. Juveniles are identified by their grey colour and the dark bars that are present all over their body, as well as their heavily keeled scales (2).
The European Glass Lizard may also be known as Pseudopus apodus, Anguis apodus or Scheltopusik (2). There are approximately eight species and sub-species found within the genus of Pseudopus, of which P. apodus is the only species which is found within Europe (generally most of the European population is classified under the sub-species of P. apodus thracius) (3). There is little variation within these species.
The European Glass Lizard typically occurs in dry habitats, often around rocky outcrops, woods, stone walls and embankments. Ophisaurus apodus also been observed to occupy areas near to human habitation (2).
Mating season commences in April/May, resulting in a clutch of six to 10 eggs being laid in August (1). The hatchlings measure around 10 to 12 cm when they first appear (2).
It is found in the Balkans, with the most northern populations being found in Croatia, as well as Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Crimea (2). It also occurs on some islands in the Aegean Sea, such as Samos, Kos, Lesvos, Rhodes and Thasos (1).
The European Glass Lizard is a diurnal species of lizard, and is most active at duck and dawn (1). In hot weather it will avoid the midday sun, and is found to be very active after rainfall (2). It can move fast over short distances. Ophisaurus apodus has been found to observe its habitat by lifting the front part of its body off the ground (1).
The European Glass Lizards’ diet consists of large invertebrates, such as snails, which it crushes whole with its sharp teeth. It will also feed on arthropods, small vertebrates such as mice and lizards, as well as bird eggs (1) (2).
Currently, Ophisaurus apodus has not been evaluated in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (1); it is however, listed under Appendix III of BERN Convention (5).
Description written by Sheridan Willis (2009)
(1) Dimitropoulos, A. and Iwannides, I. 2002. Natural History Museum Gulandris “Reptiles of Greece and Cyprus”. KOAN, Biblia Tou Kosmou
(2) Arnold, E.N., 2004. A field guide to the reptiles and amphibians of Britain and Europe. 2nd ed. London: Harper Collins Publishers
(3) Zipcode Zoo. 2009. Pseudopus apodus in: <http://www.zipcodezoo.com/Animals/P/Pseudopus_apodus/> Downloaded on 09 July 2009
(4) IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.1. Pseudopus apodus in: <www.iucnredlist.org> Downloaded on 09 July 2009
(5) Europe, C.o., 2002. Convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats: Bern Convention. [Online] Available at: http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/FR/Treaties/Html/104-3.htm [Accessed 23 July 2009]