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A Production of

Ophisaurus apodus, European Legless Lizard
Dr. Jessie Maisano - The University of Texas at Austin
The Deep Scaly Project
Ophisaurus apodus
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Yale Peabody Museum (YPM 12870)

Image processing: Dr. Jessie Maisano
Publication Date: 24 Apr 2003


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.

ophisaurus apodus

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.

ophisaurus apodus
About the Species

This frozen specimen originated in the pet trade and no locality information is available. It was made available to the University of Texas High-Resolution X-ray CT Facility for scanning by Dr. Jessie Maisano of The University of Texas and Dr. Jacques Gauthier of Yale University. Funding for scanning was provided by an NSF grant (DEB-0132227) to Dr. Jack Sites of Brigham Young University. Funding for image processing was provided by a National Science Foundation Assembling the Tree of Life grant (EF-0334961), The Deep Scaly Project: Resolving Squamate Phylogeny using Genomic and Morphological Approaches, to Drs. Jacques Gauthier of Yale University, Maureen Kearney of the Field Museum, Jessie Maisano of The University of Texas at Austin, Tod Reeder of San Diego State University, Olivier Rieppel of the Field Museum, Jack Sites of Brigham Young University, and John Wiens of SUNY Stonybrook.

Ophisaurus apodus
Lateral view of the scanned specimen.

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.

About the

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

& Links

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.

Skull yaw movie

Skull pitch movie

Skull roll movie

Mandible yaw movie

Mandible pitch movie

Mandible roll movie


To cite this page: Dr. Jessie Maisano, The Deep Scaly Project, 2003, "Ophisaurus apodus" (On-line), Digital Morphology. Accessed June 17, 2024 at http://digimorph.org/specimens/Ophisaurus_apodus/.

©2002-20019 - UTCT/DigiMorph Funding by NSF