#CreatureFeature – Lialis burtonis (Burton’s Legless Lizard)

Description

Legless lizards are often mistaken for snakes and the Burton’s legless lizard is no exception. These adorable reptiles have a distinct wedge shaped snout that differs from both snakes and other lizards.  They also differ from snakes in their lack of venom glands, having a fleshy tongue which is not forked, visible ear holes and if you look close enough you will see their reduced hind limbs. They have a varied colour morphology ranging from cream, grey, brown, dark red and often sporting a darker head.

Habitat

Burton’s are endemic to Australia and Papua New Guinea inhabiting a wide range of environments including, grasslands, woodlands, beaches and rainforests.

Diet

Burton’s are diurnal feeders with a diet of mostly small lizards and even other legless lizards though they typically target skinks. Some of the other species they have been recorded eating include geckos, dragons and even small snakes.

Burton’s at times use caudal luring, a tactic in which the lizard lures or distracts its prey using tail movements before attempting to capture it. Once the prey is captured the lizard depending on its size is held until subdued and then using a specialised jaw (highly kinetic skull) consumes its prey whole.

Reproduction

Burtons are oviparous meaning they lay eggs. Their breeding season is generally from November to January with one clutch of up to 3 eggs laid per year they have also been recorded laying in a communal best with up to 20 eggs. This clutch of eggs is laid under rocks, logs, leaf litter and in sometimes in sugar ant nests. 

Did you know?

Legless lizards can drop their tails when feeling threatened to enable them to escape and amazingly some legless lizard tails can be up to 3/4 of their body length.

Read more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burton%27s_legless_lizard

Jarna Kendle – Senior Biodiversity Officer

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