At the start of 2008 I promised myself – in fact, I might even have said it on Tet Zoo – that I’d photograph all the Slow-worms Anguis fragilis I see. The bad news is that I only saw four and – of those – one was dead. Nevertheless…
Both individuals you see here (above) were found in the New Forest, within sight of Bournemouth Airport. Neither are fully adult. The male on the left is doing a nice job of coiling round my thumb, and he’s showing his grey belly scales in the process. Like other anguid lizards, slow-worms have relatively small belly scales: very different from the transversely broad ventral scales of snakes. The female on the right was in very good condition: her lack of scars suggesting that she hadn’t yet mated. Males = brown sides, sometimes with blue spots. Females = blackish sides.
Two more (below). The one on the left is the dead individual I found in a shopping precinct in Southampton (previously discussed here). It was either killed by a bird or a dog and was heavily scarred. An old male like this could potentially be a couple of decades old (or even more); the death of any individual at the jaws or claws of a domestic dog or cat is a real waste. The young, and very much alive, male on the right was encountered on a trip to Town Common, Christchurch, on which I was accompanied by members of the Southampton Natural History Society and the Herpetological Conservation Trust. This individual looks unusually short-snouted, but that’s a fluke: he was looking slightly to the right when the photo was taken.
Finally, here’s a totally amazing photo of another deceased slow-worm, found at Shoreham-by-Sea (Hampshire, UK) and kindly provided by Steve Langham of the Surrey Amphibian and Reptile Group. It follows that slow-worms have formidable teeth, given that they’re predators of gastropods and other invertebrates, but did you know that they were this formidable?
I must say that anguimorph lizards impress me with their ability to completely conceal what are often very large, curved teeth behind their scaly lips. Look at helodermatids (gila monsters and beaded lizards) for an even better example: MASSIVE teeth, but no visible hint of them when the jaws are closed.
For previous Tet Zoo posts on anguids see Beasts of Portland (it includes a really exciting video!), Pompey and Steepo and Arboreal alligator lizards. Must finish the galliwasp stuff promised back in May 2007. If only there wasn’t so much stuff to deal with.