Rhineura floridana, 23 September 2019

Rhineura floridana, the Florida worm lizard;
Volusia county, Florida (23 September 2019).
Learn more about this species at iNaturalist.org.

Squamata is a clade of reptiles most known for its snakes (Serpentes) and lizards (Lacertilia). A bit more rarely encountered, however, is the Amphisbaenia clade — a group of reptiles commonly referred to as “worm lizards.” Though not true lizards or true snakes, they share aspects of each (sort of). Extremely secretive, legless, and mostly-blind, worm lizards spend the vast majority of their time bunkered down within sandy soil, well hidden in their burrows. In Florida, we only have one such species: Rhineura floridana. Though not “rare” or “endangered,” the Florida worm lizard is seldom encountered — at least in contrast to other squamates.

Featured here are shots of a recently-deceased Florida worm lizard.

Fairly gnarly in appearance, the body hadn’t quite dried out yet. I suspect it had been killed earlier the same afternoon; it was found on a frequently-used neighborhood bike path in Ormond Beach, Florida. As much as it pains me to find a dead one, I was still delighted to see any Florida worm lizard. Until today, this is a species I have never stumbled across in the wild — not even once. I can’t help but to think of H.R. Giger‘s work when I look at this critter’s gnarly death-face.

Anyhow, I’m usually not one for photographing dead animals, but this one was certainly an exception. It’s an animal I’m unlikely to come across again in the near future — though I suppose I’ll now be looking more actively for them in my neighborhood.

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