Legless skinks are a rather unknown creature, and upon looking them up, one might be confused as to what they are. This article will answer the question of the mysterious identity of the legless skink and provide some information on its behaviour and biology.
So, what is the legless skink? It might look like a snake, but in actual fact, it isn’t. Is it a worm then? Nope. The clue to its identity is in the name, because the legless skink is an animal that normally would have legs, namely a lizard. In Southern Africa alone, there are more than 30 species of legless skinks, but they can also be found throughout the rest of Africa, Australia and New Guinea, proving that this is not as obscure a creature as one might think. But then why are they relatively unheard of? Usually, when people find legless skinks in the wild, they just assume they are snakes, which is reasonable, considering how much they do resemble snakes upon first inspection. Then the question arises of how they differ.
The most obvious distinction between legless skinks and snakes can be seen only up close. Legless skinsks, unlike snakes, have prominent noses (referred to as a rostral) which they use to push dirt aside as they burrow into the ground where they live and hunt. Because legless skinks burrow underground, interaction with people is not too common, but it is not very uncommon either. Legless skinks have been known to show up in gardens and in compost where they feed on earthworms, insects, and other invertebrates. Along with this, whilst most snake species do not possess eyelids, legless skinks do, and you can see them blinking if you look closely enough. Legless skinks also do not have forked tongues and tend to be shorter than a lot of snake species. One thing that legless skinks and snakes do have in common is that they are, more often than not, not safe to handle. Legless skinks have been known to give a vicious bite and can possess venom.
Additionally, as opposed to snakes, legless skinks slither very slowly across the ground. This is perhaps due to the fact that their leglessness is a product of evolution, suggesting that legless skinks did once have legs, and so maybe they still have yet to adapt to their legless bodies and figure out how to slither better. Of course, evolutionary research shows that snakes once also possessed legs, but their evolution has proven far more successful. Another example that supports this is that although legless skinks are confined to underground habitats where they make burrows and hide from predators (which include snakes), snakes can be found in a plethora of habitats, ranging from aquatic to tree-top habitats, as well as under- and above-ground habitats. That being said, it is the legless skinks’ relation to lizards that has given evolutionary scientists more information to go off when looking into the evolutionary origins of snakes.
In conclusion, legless skinks are technically lizards, despite their snake- or worm-like appearance. If any of our readers were to stumble upon what looks like a snake, we would not recommend getting a closer look to see if it is actually a legless skink, as both creatures should be regarded with the same caution. We hope that our readers found this interesting and that they are doing well during these strange times.