They look like snakes, but they are actually a new species of lizards discovered in California. Until now, California boasted the only known legless lizard species in the United States, but now four new species have been unearthed. It is very hard to for the everyday individual to differentiate these lizards from snakes but unlike snakes, many legless lizards have external ear openings and movable eyelids.
The University of California, Berkeley says the discovery was made by it’s reptile and amphibian expert, Theodore Papenfuss, along with James Parham of California State University, Fullerton.
The experts spent years placing cardboard all around California because the lizards live their entire lives underground or near the surface and don’t expand beyond a small surface. When they are found it is usually in moist areas under dead wood or cardboard. Papenfuss and Parham diligently monitored the sites where they had left the cardboard. Their diligence finally paid off when the four new species were found.
All four species were found at unusual locations which included the end of a runway at Los Angeles International Airport, a vacant littered lot in downtown Bakersfield, in the lower San Joaquin Valley among oil derricks and on the edge of the Mojave Dessert.
The new species were all named for US Berkley scientists. Anniella alexanderae is the name given to the silver bellied found near the oil fields. Anniella campi boasts a yellow belly and was located on the edge of the Mojave Desert. The purple-bellied Anniella grinnelli was found in the Bakersfield lot, and last but not least was Anniella stebbinsi located at the airport.
“This shows that there is a lot of undocumented biodiversity within California,” Theodore Papenfuss, a herpetologist at the University of California Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, said in a statement from the school.
It is still to be determined if the lizards will need protected status.
Image via Wikimedia,Commons