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Feature Creature - SLOW WORM

Credits: Jamie Hall

Did you know this feature creature even existed? It's a SLOW WORM! These bizarre creatures are not quite what they seem. Despite appearances and their name, they are neither snakes nor worms. They are in fact legless lizards that have found the same solution as snakes for negotiating grassy vegetation - getting rid of those pesky limbs!

Fantastic facts:


*Favourite foods: small beetles, slugs and worms     *Enemies: birds of prey, cats


*Life span: around 30 years in the wild, but more than fifty in captivity


*Where found: across England, Wales and Scotland, with a few turning up in Ireland    


*Latin name: Anguis fragilis ('fragile snake')   *Super power: tail shedding


But what are these strange reptiles and what can they do? Slow worms are:




Slow worms are one of three species of lizard native to the UK, along with common and sand lizard.* Their grass-dwelling lifestyle means that their long, smooth bodies are perfect for wriggling and burrowing between stems.


Not only did they lose the need for legs, they got rid of them altogether, allowing them to glide easliy along without getting snagged. But how can we tell they are still lizards and not snakes? One tell-tale sign is to look for eyelids. Have you ever seen a snake blink? No? Well slow worms can!  


*One other species of lizard found in the UK - the wall lizard - is thought to be an introduced species, but some scientists are unsure about whether it is in fact native to some areas.  




Most reptiles are famous for laying leathery eggs that their young hatch out of. Slow worms actually 'give birth' to live young instead, just like adders and common lizards. The young are tiny and bronze and can look like shiny earthworms. 


Adults grow to around 50cm long (about the same length as your keyboard). Females are usually golden brown with dark stripes along their sides and a line along their backs. Males are generally paler and can sometimes have bright blue speckles along their sides. 


Gardener's friends


Gardens can make good homes for slow worms, providing lots of minibeast prey. Gardeners who hate slugs love slow worms!


Like all reptiles, slow worms will bask in the sun to warm up, especially females getting ready to have their young. More often however they prefer to gather together under rocks, logs or even flat pieces of tin where they soak up the heat stored after sunny days. 






Have a look at the slow worm visitor Nick Baker had in our Wildlife Watch film: