Anguis – Slow worms

Are we snakes, or are we worms?

Legless lizards, commonly known as slow worms, exhibit a fascinating blend of characteristics that distinguish them from their snake counterparts. While they lack limbs and possess elongated, snake-like bodies, slowworms retain several features typical of lizards, including small, blinking eyes with thin eyelids and the presence of external ears, which are absent in most snake species. Additionally, slowworms shed their skin in pieces, a process distinct from the complete molting observed in snakes.

Geographically, slowworms inhabit a broad range spanning across Eurasia, encompassing much of Europe, as well as parts of Central and Western Asia. This widespread distribution reflects their ability to thrive in diverse habitats, including grasslands, woodlands, and agricultural landscapes, where they play integral roles in ecosystem dynamics.

Despite their superficial resemblance to snakes, slowworms exhibit distinct dietary preferences, with a strictly vegetarian diet comprising primarily of worms and slugs. This herbivorous lifestyle contributes to their ecological significance as regulators of invertebrate populations, particularly those of worms and slugs. By consuming these invertebrates, slowworms help maintain balance within ecosystems, preventing population explosions of potentially harmful pests and serving as a vital food source for local predators, including snakes and raptors.

Furthermore, slowworms fulfill important ecological functions as prey items for various predators, contributing to the intricate web of trophic interactions within their respective ecosystems. Their role as both predator and prey underscores their significance in maintaining biodiversity and ecological stability across their range.