This is not a snake

Last week-end, as each year before May 1st, it was time for a small stroll in the forest to pick some Lily of the Valley flowers (aka Convallaria majalis…sorry, I can’t stop putting latin names everywhere :D)

While walking on forest tracks, my father almost stepped on that poor thing! About 40 cm long, bathing in the late afternoon sun was this strange snake-like looking animal…which is actually not a snake!
It’s called slow worm in English, orvet in French or Anguis fragilis in latin and it’s in fact a limbless lizard.

Unlike snakes, the slow worm possesses moveable eyelids. It is pretty slow moving, hence the name and it’s absolutely harmless (and a precious ally to gardeners, because it feeds on slugs and snails). It also has the strange ability to perform autotomy (it can voluntarily shed its tail to escape predators, but only once in its life time).

I still can’t decide if it’s a male or female though….female are supposed to have a thin dark line on their back (which is obviously not the case for mine), but males are more uniform in colour, and greyish….any thoughts on that?

About Sophie

Qui suis-je? Who am I? Wer bin Ich? A biologist crazy about everything that lives on earth, under water and in the air. Loving plants, gardening, music, diving and travelling. Currently rescuing threatened garden plants at Plant Heritage (NCCPG).
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9 Responses to This is not a snake

  1. Kellyann says:

    That is extremely cool.

  2. montucky says:

    What an interesting little creature!

  3. staceym says:

    So cool…I’ve never seen one in the UK!

    • Sophie says:

      They seem to be common in Wales and South-East England, but they are quite discreet, spending much of their time under logs or tall grasses. Not the easiest animal to spot, but I’m sure you will see one someday!🙂

  4. tjhavenith says:

    I know my mother-in-law used to find Slow Worms in her compost bin – so I’m forever hopeful that I’ll see one, one day🙂

    • Sophie says:

      Oh, that’s not suprising, I had a nest in my compost a few years ago! Hope you’ll see one, they are so cute.

      • tjhavenith says:

        Wow that’s cool. It’ll probably terrify me when I first see one – hopefully I’ll get over that though!

      • Sophie says:

        I was terrified the first time! It feels and moves like a snake, only smaller and slower. But once you get convinced that it’s harmless, it should be ok🙂

      • tjhavenith says:

        Hold the thing? Oh no, I’m not sure I could do that!! A nice safe distance with a good zoom lens is more my style🙂 lol

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