Legless Lizard vs Snake: 4 Key Differences

Written by August Buck
Published: January 27, 2022
Image Credit DedeDian/Shutterstock.com
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Think You Know Snakes?

Just by looking at them, you may have some trouble telling the difference between a legless lizard and a snake. The two species are incredibly similar in appearance, especially if you simply see one slither past you out of the corner of your eye!

However, there are many key differences between these two reptiles. With closer inspection and learning about these two different species, you can easily see that they are different. For example, legless lizards comprise up to 17 species of lizards in the Anguidae family. Snakes are from the scientific umbrella term Serpentes.

This is only the beginning of the differences between these two unique animals. If you have always wondered about legless lizards and snakes, you’re in the right place. Learn more about these two creatures now!

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Snake vs Legless Lizard
One of the main differences between legless lizards vs snakes is the presence of eyelids and ear holes.

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Comparing Legless Lizards vs Snakes

Besides their main difference in species, legless lizards and snakes have many physical and environmental differences as well. There are enough types of both animals to be found around the world and in many different ecosystems. Here are some of the main differences between snakes and legless lizards:

Legless LizardSnake
Length                                2-4 feet2-12 feet
Weight                               10-20 ounces5 ounces to hundreds of pounds
Number of Species            17-80Over 3,000
Eyelids/Ear Holes?               YesNo

As you can no doubt see, the differences between these two reptiles are already vast. While the two types of animals are indeed reptiles, that’s where their similarities both begin and end. The species are completely different, even though they may look the same.

Curious how you can better identify legless lizards vs snakes? Let’s take a look at some more specific differences now!

The 4 Key Differences Between Legless Lizards vs Snakes

Legless lizard vs snake
Snakes are one uniform body, without any distinguishable tail.

iStock.com/randimal

The biggest difference between between snakes and legless lizards is that legless lizards possess earholes and eyelids while snakes lack both. In addition, legless lizards can have legs. Another key difference is that snakes swallow their prey whole while legless lizards hunt mostly insects and smaller bugs. Here are the top four differences between legless lizards vs snakes!

Legless Lizard vs Snake: Eyelids and Ear Holes

One of the main differences between legless lizards vs snakes is the presence of eyelids and ear holes. Snakes do not possess either of these things, while most legless lizards do. There are always exceptions to the rule, as some legless lizard species don’t have eyelids.

However, the vast majority of lizards have both of these things, while zero species of snake do. While it can be a very subtle difference that you may not be able to tell at first glance, this is one key difference between legless lizards and snakes.

Legless Lizard vs Snake: Presence of Limbs

Despite their name, legless lizards can indeed have legs. Given that they are a species of lizard, it only makes sense that some legless lizards appear to have appendages. Snakes are genetically created without legs or limbs in mind, though some snake species grow limbs to assist them while mating.

However, the legless lizards that do indeed have legs don’t really use them. Their limbs are often too small to be useful, but you can still see them with the naked eye. This is not the case for any species of snake.

Legless Lizard vs Snake: Ability to Lose Tail

Another key difference between these two species is the legless lizard’s ability to lose its tail. If you ever pick up a legless lizard, you will feel that its tubular body is more rigid more than halfway down its back. This is because most of a legless lizard’s body consists of its tail.

Snakes are one uniform body, without any distinguishable tail. If you pick up a snake, their bodies are much more fluid and flexible. Their bodies are composed of muscle from head to toe, while legless lizards are designed more like regular lizards- just without feet!

Lizards are unique in that they are designed to lose their tails if threatened or trapped by a predator. Legless lizards are the same- they can detach a large portion of their body if they feel threatened in any way, while a snake cannot.

Legless Lizard vs Snake: Prey Preferences

Another key difference between legless lizards vs snakes is the prey that they prefer. Both reptiles are carnivorous, but snakes have a very distinct way in which they eat their prey. Snakes can stretch their jaws and consume their prey whole, and often eat rodents of large sizes.

Legless lizards on the other hand prefer to eat insects and smaller bugs, much like the majority of lizard species. They also don’t have the ability to stretch their mouth the way snakes can, and tend to eat much smaller prey.

Legless lizard vs snake
Legless lizards are not particularly harmful, though they can still bite and potentially infect humans and pets.

Matt Jeppson/Shutterstock.com

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blue snake in grass hissing
blue snake in grass hissing
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About the Author

I am a non-binary freelance writer working full-time in Oregon. Graduating Southern Oregon University with a BFA in Theatre and a specialization in creative writing, I have an invested interest in a variety of topics, particularly Pacific Northwest history. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping along the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my home kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast iron skillet.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are snakes and legless lizards related?

No, snakes and legless lizards are not related. They are both reptiles, but that is the extent of their relationship. While they may look similar, they are very different creatures!

Are legless lizards harmful?

Legless lizards are not particularly harmful, though they can still bite and potentially infect humans and pets. However, no known legless lizard species are venomous like snakes are, and most of these reptiles are shy and prefer to be left alone!

Can legless lizards have legs?

Yes, some species of legless lizards can indeed have legs. Many different types of legless lizards have legs that you can see. However, these legs are vestigial or otherwise useless to them in terms of their mobility.

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