Slow worm

You might mistake them for snakes, but they are merely legless lizards

Chris Duncan

An intriguing and often misunderstood creature due to its serpentine appearance. Despite its common names, ‘deaf adder’ or ‘blindworm,’ it is neither a worm nor a snake but a legless lizard that can be found across Eurasia, from the United Kingdom to the Far East of Russia.

Unlike snakes, slow worms have eyelids that they can close, and their eyes have a more lidded appearance. They have smooth, shiny scales and a distinct V or X-shaped marking on the head. Their overall coloration varies from golden-brown to grey, often with a metallic sheen, and males and females can be distinguished by their coloration; males typically have uniform coloring, while females may exhibit a dark dorsal stripe or a row of dark spots on the sides.

The slow worm’s body is elongated, and it possesses a short tail that, like other lizards, can be autotomized — meaning it can be shed as a defensive tactic when grasped by a predator. A unique feature of slow worms is their ability to regenerate this lost tail, although it never fully regains its original length or color.

One of the most distinct features of the slow worm is the presence of a dark, sometimes zig-zagging dorsal stripe, which serves as a key identification characteristic and distinguishes it from snakes and other adders. This pattern can be especially pronounced in females and juveniles.

In terms of habitat, slow worms are versatile and can thrive in various environments such as heathlands, tussocky grasslands, woodlands, and even gardens, provided they have ample cover and basking spots. They are ectothermic, relying on external heat sources to regulate their body temperature, which is why they are often found sunbathing on warm surfaces.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Albania
2020
Andorra
2020
Austria
2020
Belgium
2020
Bosnia And Herz.
2020
Bulgaria
2020
Croatia
2020
Czechia
2020
Denmark
2020
Finland
2020
France
2020
Mainland
Germany
2020
Greece
2020
Mainland
Hungary
2020
Italy
2020
Possibly Extant
Lithuania
2020
Luxembourg
2020
Moldova
2020
Montenegro
2020
Netherlands
2020
North Macedonia
2020
Norway
2020
Poland
2020
Portugal
2020
Mainland
Romania
2020
Russia
2020
Kaliningrad
Serbia
2020
Slovakia
2020
Slovenia
2020
Spain
2020
Mainland
Sweden
2020
Switzerland
2020
United Kingdom
2020
Great Britain

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No