“We saw this worm on our morning walk in a suburban, residential neighborhood in Florida, north of Orlando”, states this reader about the long, segmented, light-gray worm pictured below. She also includes a fantastic video which we have also linked below, which shows how this creature wriggles about. “We have never seen one like this before and would like to know what kind it is. Would appreciate any information you can give us about this worm!” Our reader is actually lucky to have seen this creature, as they spend most of their time underground: this is a Florida lizard worm!
Their strange name comes from the common tendency people have to mistake this lizard for a worm, as well as its worm-like appearance. But to be clear, this is technically a lizard. What is special about this lizard is that it is the only species of limbless lizards to exist in the United States, and they are only found in the Northern region of Florida. They belong to a family of reptiles known as Amphisbaenia, a name which derives from the mythical, Libyan creature of the same name, and it means ‘to go both ways’. Although the real-life Amphisbaenia do not possess two heads, one on each rear, like the mythical monster does, they can move in both directions, leading with either their heads or their rears.
The Florida lizard worm is not dangerous at all: they are not venomous, and it is doubtful their mouths could open wide enough to bite a person (though they do pack a powerful bite!). They feed on the earthworms and insects they encounter underground, and like earthworms will come up during heavy rainfall as their burrows fill with water and they seek oxygen. Their faces are so featureless because their orifices are covered in scales to protect them from all the dirt that would otherwise fill their eyes, nostrils and mouth when digging underground. Additionally, in order to move through their narrow burrows, they are able to push their loose skin ahead of their insides before moving the rest of their body through.
In conclusion, the long gray worm-like creature our reader found on her walk is actually a Florida lizard worm. We must say that we are excited we got to cover this, as we have never before written about this fascinating organism. We hope our reader found this informative, and we wish her the very best!
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