The sheltopusik, also spelled scheltopusik, or European legless lizard (Pseudopus apodus) is a large glass lizard found from southern Europe to Central Asia. Its common name comes from Russian: желтопузик, literally "yellow-bellied". It was previously in the genus Ophisaurus, but has been placed in its own genus Pseudopus.
This lizard can reach a length of 135 cm. It has a tan coloration, paler on the ventral surface and the head, with a ring-like/segmented appearance that makes it look like a giant earthworm with a distinctive fold of skin down each side called a lateral groove. Small (2-mm) rear legs are sometimes visible near the cloaca. Though their legs are barely discernible, they can be easily distinguished from a snake by their ears, eyelids, and ventral scales.
Habitat and behaviour
This lizard inhabits open country such as short grassland or sparsely wooded hills. The scheltopusik consumes arthropods and small mammals. Snails and slugs appear to be its favorite prey, which may explain why it is particularly active in wet weather, although it prefers a dry habitat.
Due to its size, the scheltopusik tends to respond to harassment by hissing, biting, and musking. It is less likely to drop off its tail than some other species that display caudal autotomy. However, these occasional displays of caudal autotomy are responsible for the name "glass lizard" (or "glass snake"). The released tail may break into pieces, leading to the myth that the lizard can shatter like glass and reassemble itself later. In reality, if the tail is lost, it grows back slowly, but is shorter and darker; it may grow back to full length as it grows.
They are frequently available in the exotic pet trade, though rarely captive-bred. They do not typically tolerate a large amount of handling, but they adapt to captivity well, feeding on crickets, meal worms, small mice, eggs, snails or pieces of meat which they even accept from a keeper´s tweezers once they become used to captivity. They make hardy captives, capable of living up to 50 years.
About 10 weeks after mating, the female lays about eight eggs which she hides under bark or a stone, and often guards them. The young hatch after 45 – 55 days. They average about 15 cm long and usually start to eat after four days.
"The Scheltopusik, Pseudopus [Ophisaurus] apodus: Natural History and Care". Cyber Lizard U.K. 2003-09-28. Retrieved 2008-01-19.
"Scheltopusik Care Sheet and Information". Western New York Herpetological Society. 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-19.
Kaplan, Melissa (1997). "Glass Lizard - Glass Snake - Legless Lizard". Melissa Kaplan's Herp Care Collection. Retrieved 2008-01-19.
"European Glass Lizard". Wild Natures. September 2006. Retrieved 2008-01-19.
"Giant Legless Lizard". Central Pets. 2008-01-19. Retrieved 2008-01-19.
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