Ophisaurus apodus (or Pseudopus apodus), the European legless lizard or Scheltopusik, occurs in southern Europe, the Balkans, the southern Crimean coast, the Black Sea coast, and central Asia. Its preferred habitat is open wooded areas or rounded hills with short grass. However, it is easiest to find in your local pet store -- O. apodus is very popular in the pet trade because of its hardiness (longevity in captivity has been recorded at 50+ years), large size (it can reach over 3 feet in length), and reasonable intelligence by lizard standards (it learns to recognize its keeper). Indeed, the specimen featured here originated in the pet trade.
While Ophisaurus may look like a snake, it is actually a member of Anguidae, a clade of lizards distributed throughout the Americas and Eurasia in which limb loss has occurred several times. Ophisaurus apodus retains a remnant, or 'stump', of the hind limb. All anguids have osteodermal armor, and many exhibit a longitudinal ventrolateral fold in the skin on each side that separates the dorsal and ventral armor. The fold permits expansion for breathing and feeding. The impressive extent of the osteodermal armor can best be appreciated in the animations above.
About the Species
About this Specimen
The specimen was scanned by Matthew Colbert on 18 November 2002 along the coronal axis for a total of 840 slices. Each slice is 0.063 mm thick, with an interslice spacing of 0.063 mm and a field of reconstruction of 30.1 mm.
McConkey, E. H. 1954. A systematic study of the North American lizards of the genus Ophisaurus. American Midland Naturalist 51:133-171.
Wiens, J. J., and J. L. Slingluff. 2001. How lizards turn into snakes: a phylogenetic analysis of body-form evolution in anguid lizards. Evolution 55:2303-2318.
Trapp, B. 1999. Ophisaurus apodus Sheltopusk, armored glass lizard (Pallas, 1775). Reptilia 8:39-42.
Images of Ophisaurus apodus on the Amphibians and Reptiles of Europe site
Caresheet for O. apodus from the Western New York Herpetological Society
Three-dimensional volumetric renderings of the skull with the osteoderms, scleral ossicles, hyoid and jaw removed, and of the isolated left mandible. All are less than 2mb.