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Wormlizards: Amphisbaenidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Wormlizards are fossorial (foss-OR-ee-ul), which means that stay underground most of the time. Depending on the shape of the head, they dig their tunnels in different ways. Those with a round head butt their heads straight into the dirt like a battering ram and move forward that way. Other species with heads shaped like shovels, scoop up dirt onto the top of the head and then press it into the roof of the tunnel. Those with sideways-flattened heads, on the other hand, press the head and the body side to side and force an opening through the soil. No matter how they make their tunnels, they all use them to hunt for animals to eat. They mostly hunt by using their excellent hearing and by smelling. Like other amphisbaenians, wormlizards have forked tongues that pick up chemicals left by prey animals. They then touch their tongues to a small opening on the roof of the mouth that opens to a special organ. This organ, called a Jacobson's organ, can smell the chemicals.

Although wormlizards stay underground, which protects them from most predators, they sometimes come under attack. When this happens, most species can drop the tail, which can confuse a predator (PREH-duh-ter) enough to give the wormlizard time to escape. Unlike many of the lizards that also drop their tails, wormlizards cannot regrow theirs.

Scientists know little more about their behavior, courtship, or mating. The females of most species lay eggs, but some give birth to baby wormlizards. The number of eggs in each clutch is typically between one and four, although a few species can lay more than a dozen. Females sometimes lay their eggs inside ant or termite nests.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceDinosaurs, Snakes, and Other ReptilesWormlizards: Amphisbaenidae - Physical Characteristics, Geographic Range, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, White-bellied Wormlizard (amphisbaena Alba): Species Account - HABITAT, WORMLIZARDS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS