Slow worm

(Anguis fragilis)
Diurnal but cryptic. More active at dawn and dusk, usually hiding under rocks and logs.
Sophia Siggiridou_Kostas Vidakis, MSc

Distribution of the species

The local population is smaller than the 2% of the national population. The conservation status of the local population, which is not isolated within its wider distribution range, is considered from sufficient to good. In the study area, it can be mainly located in wet places with vegetation, from the lowest altitude agroforestry areas to the highest altitude open areas of the alpine zone.

Description of the species (biological and ecological features)

Legless lizard. Many confuse it with a snake, hence the popular name “snake lizard”. Unlike snakes, it has movable eyelids (snake eyes are permanently protected by a transparent scale) and distinct, externally visible ears. The body is cylindrical, up to 50 cm long, usually brown or grayish, thinning from the head to the tail. During the autotomy of the tail, that is its intentional amputation, which is achieved by the contraction of the muscles surrounding the vertebrae at the point where mechanical pressure is exerted by the attack of a predator, the cut part is divided into several parts, like a broken glass, causing confusion to the predator. Then the tail is regenerated.

Diurnal but cryptic. More active at dawn and dusk, usually hiding under rocks and logs. Prefers relatively moist habitats with lush vegetation. It is found in meadows, open forests, shrubs, heather, parks and gardens, even at high altitudes. It falls into hibernation. Ovoviviparous species. It uses its forked tongue, taking it out many times, to perceive its environment and to assess the possibility of danger or finding prey. It feeds mainly on slugs and earthworms, but also on insects, spiders and young lizards.

The main threats for the species are habitats loss due to the expansion and intensification of agriculture, urbanization, fires and the afforestation of suitable open habitats. The species is threatened by road traffic, while predation by domestic cats can be a threat near settlements.

Conservation status

Least Concern.

Conservation state

Protected under the 92/43/EEC Directive (Annex ΙII) and the Bern Convention (Appendix ΙΙ). Listed as Least Concern in Greece and in Europe, by the Greek Red Data Book and the IUCN correspondingly.