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Amphisbaenia facts for kids

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Worm lizards
Temporal range: Cretaceous - Recent
Iberian worm lizard.jpg
A worm lizard
Scientific classification

Gray, 1844

Amphisbaenia (called amphisbaenians or worm lizards) are a group of usually legless squamates, comprising of over 180 species.

Amphisbaenians are characterized by their long bodies, the reduction or loss of the limbs, and primitive eyes. Many species have a pink body and scales arranged in rings, they have a resemblance to earthworms. While the genus Bipes retains forelimbs, all other genera are limbless. Most species are less than 6 inches (150 mm) long.

There is a resemblance to some primitive snakes, though amphisbaenians have many unique features that distinguish them from other reptiles.

Internally, their right lung is reduced in size to fit their narrow bodies, whereas in snakes, it is always the left lung. Although similar to the snakes and blind lizards, recent studies suggest that they are most closely related to the true lizards.

The skin of amphisbaenians is only loosely attached to the body, and they move using an accordion-like motion, in which the skin moves and the body seemingly just drags along behind it. Uniquely, they are also able to perform this motion in reverse just as effectively.

Amphisbaenians are carnivorous, able to tear chunks out of larger prey with their powerful, interlocking teeth. Like lizards, some species are able to shed their tails (autotomy). Most species lay eggs.

Amphisbaenians are widely distributed, occurring in North America, Europe, Africa, South America, Western Asia and the Caribbean, a surprisingly large distribution despite being small subterranean animals that rarely ever leave their burrows. They are not found east of the Caspian Sea.

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