This Lizard Doesn't Need Legs — But It Does Need Land
At first glance you might mistake a legless lizard for a snake. But you can identify these intriguing critters — whose legs have either disappeared or shrunk beyond utility over evolutionary time — by examining their heads. Unlike snakes, they tend to have notched tongues rather than forked ones, as well as eyelids and external ear openings. Some species retain tiny, vestigial limbs.
In central California's Kern County, the Temblor legless lizard lives only in a single tiny area — more than 98% of which is open to oil and gas development. So on Monday the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned for the animal's protection under the Endangered Species Act. (The photo above is of another legless lizard in Northern California, Anniella pulchra.)
The lizard, which swims sinuously through sand, only survives at four sites. "Rampant oil drilling is causing double damage to the legless lizard by destroying habitat and accelerating climate change," said Center conservation advocate Jeff Miller.