Scientists Discover New Legless Lizards

And nope, they are not snakes
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 19, 2013 1:19 PM CDT

You may think the pictures look like snakes or worms, but they're not: Those are legless lizards, four new species of which were discovered in California recently. Unlike snakes, the lizards spend most of their lives underground, in an area about the size of a small table, LiveScience reports—so to find the new species, researchers had to put thousands of pieces of cardboard at various sites in the hopes some of the lizards would make a rare aboveground appearance, surfacing beneath the cardboard. (They are sometimes spotted underneath dead wood or logs, where the ground is still cool and moist, and the cardboard created these areas.)

The four species are silver-bellied Anniella alexanderae, yellow-bellied Anniella campi, purple-bellied Anniella grinnelli, and Anniella stebbinsi, all named after UC Berkeley scientists, as one of the researchers is from the university. As the Los Angeles Times explains, snakes are legless lizards, but these four species are not snakes. How are they different? They have movable eyelids, so they can blink; they don't shed their skin in a single piece; some have external ear openings; and they don't "coil" or "slither" as much, tending to be "more rigid" than snakes, says one of the researchers. These four types are small, usually not longer than 8 inches and about as thick around as a pencil. (Read more new species stories.)

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