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Pseudopus apodus by Omid Mozaffari

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Cladus: Craniata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Cladus: Reptiliomorpha
Cladus: Amniota
Classis: Reptilia
Cladus: Eureptilia
Cladus: Romeriida
Subclassis: Diapsida
Cladus: Sauria
Infraclassis: Lepidosauromorpha
Superordo: Lepidosauria
Ordo: Squamata
Cladus: Unidentata, Episquamata, Toxicofera
Subordo: Anguimorpha
Infraordo: Neoanguimorpha
Superfamilia: Diploglossa

Familia: Anguidae
Subfamilia: Anguinae
Genus: Pseudopus
Species: Pseudopus apodus
Subspecies (3): P. a. apodus – P. a. levantinus – P. a. thracius


Pseudopus apodus (Pallas, 1775)

Pseudopus apodus (*)

Type material: unknown. [probably lost]
Type locality: not stated, designated as “conuallibus herbidis deserti Naryn et ad Sarpam, Kumam, Terekum fluuios” by Pallas (1776: 14); restricted to “Naryn-Steppe, Nordküste des Kaspischen Meeres” by Mertens & Müller (1928: 26) and to “Terek-Gebiet nördlich des Kaukasus” by Obst (1978: 139).


Lacerta apoda Pallas, 1775: 435 [original combination]
Ophisaurus apodus — Mertens & Müller, 1928: 26 [subsequent combination]
Pseudopus apodus — Klembara, 1979 [subsequent combination]


Lacerta apus Gmelin, 1789: 1079 [nomen substitutum pro Lacerta apoda]
Chalcida apus — Meyer, 1795: 31 [subsequent combination]
Chamaesaura apus — Schneider, 1801: 212 [subsequent combination]
Ophisaurus apus — Boulenger, 1885: 280 [subsequent combination]
Pseudopus apus — Boettger, 1886: 56 [subsequent combination]
Sheltopusik didactylus Sonnini & Latreille, 1802: 273 [nomen substitutum pro Lacerta apoda]
Bipes pallasii Oppel, 1811: 43 [nomen nudum by Mertens & Wermuth (1940: 89)]
Pseudopus serpentinus Merrem, 1820: 78 [nomen substitutum pro Lacerta apoda]
Ophisaurus serpentinus — Eichwald, 1831: 179 [subsequent combination]
Pseudopus oppelii Fitzinger, 1826: 50 [nomen nudum by Mertens & Wermuth (1940: 89)]
Type material: unknown.
Type locality: “Europa, Dalmatia”.
Pseudopus pallasii Cuvier, 1829: 69 [nomen substitutum pro Lacerta apoda]
Proctopus pallasii — Fischer, 1830: 241 [subsequent combination]
Pseudopus durvallii Cuvier, 1829: 69 [Nomen dubium by Obst (1981: 127).
Type material: unknown.
Type locality: “dans l'Archipel”.

Primary references

Pallas, P.S. 1775. Lacerta apoda descripta. Novi commentarii Academiae Scientiarum Imperialis Petropolitanae 19: 435–454. BHL
Gmelin, J.F. 1789. Caroli a Linné systema naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I, Pars III. Editio decima tertia, aucta, reformata. - pp. 1033-1516. Lipsiae. (Beer). DOI: 10.5962/bhl.title.545 BHLReference page.
Sonnini, C.-N.-S. & Latreille, P.-A. 1802. Histoire Naturelle des Reptiles, avec Figures Déssinnées d'après Nature. 4 volumes: 1, 2, 3, 4. Imprimerie de Crapelet, Chez Deterville libraire: Paris. Reference page.
Oppel, M. 1811. Die Ordnung, Familien und Gattungen der Reptilien als Prodrom einer Naturgeschichte derselben. Joseph Lindauer: München. 86 pp. BHL
Merrem, B. 1820. Versuch eines Systems der Amphibien. Johann Christian Krieger: Marburg. xv + 191 pp., 1 pl. BHL Reference page.
Fitzinger, L. 1826. Neue classification der reptilien nach ihren natürlichen verwandtschaften. Nebst einer verwandtschafts-tafel und einem verzeichnisse der reptilien-sammlung des K. K. zoologischen museum's zu Wien. J.G. Hübner: Wien. vii + 66 pp. BHL Reference page.
Cuvier, G.L. 1829. Le règne animal distribué d'après son organisation, pour servir de base a l'histoire naturelle des animaux et d'introduction a l'anatomie comparée. Avec figures dessinées d'après nature. Nouvelle édition, revue et augmentée. Tome II. Déterville: Paris. i–xv + 406 pp. DOI: 10.5962/bhl.title.49223 BHL Reference page.

Additional references

Obst, F.J. 1978. Zur geographischen Variabilitat des Scheltopusik, Ophisaurus apodus (Pallas) (Reptilia, Squamata, Anguidae). Zoologische Abhandlungen Staatliches Museum für Tierkunde in Dresden 35(8): 129–140.
Jandzík, D., Jablonski, D., Zinenko, O., Kukushkin, O.V., Moravec, J. & Gvoždík, V. 2018. Pleistocene extinctions and recent expansions in an anguid lizard of the genus Pseudopus. Zoologica Scripta 47(1): 21–32. DOI: 10.1111/zsc.12256 Paywall Reference page.
Jablonski, D., Ribeiro-Júnior, M.A., Meiri, S., Maza, E., Kukushkin, O.V., Chirikova, M., Pirosová, A., Jelić, D., Mikulíček, P. & Jandzík, D. 2021. Morphological and genetic differentiation in the anguid lizard Pseudopus apodus supports the existence of an endemic subspecies in the Levant. Vertebrate Zoology 71: 175–200. DOI: 10.3897/vz.71.e60800 Open access Reference page.


Uetz, P. & Hallermann, J. 2021. Pseudopus apodus. The Reptile Database. Accessed on 3 September 2020.
Agasyan, A., Avci, A., Tuniyev, B., Isailovic, J.C., Lymberakis, P., Andrén, C., Cogalniceanu, D., Wilkinson, J., Ananjeva, N., Üzüm, N., Orlov, N., Podloucky, R., Tuniyev, S., Kaya, U., Mousa Disi, A.M., Hraoui-Bloquet, S., Sadek, R., Tok, V., Ugurtas, I.H., Sevinç, M. & Haxhiu, I. 2009. IUCN: Pseudopus apodus (Least Concern). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2009: e.T157263A5064890.

Vernacular names
беларуская: Жаўтапузік
Deutsch: Scheltopusik
English: Eurasian Glass Lizard
日本語: バルカンヘビガタトカゲ
Türkçe: Oluklu kertenkele

The sheltopusik[2] /ˌʃɛltəˈpjuːzɪk/ (Pseudopus apodus), also commonly called Pallas' glass lizard[3] or the European legless lizard, is a species of large glass lizard found from Southern Europe to Central Asia.


Pseudopus apodus comes from Greek ψευδοποδος άποδος, literally meaning "fake-leged" or without legs.

The common name "sheltopusik" comes from Russian желтопузик (zheltopuzik), which translates most directly to "yellow-bellied".[4]

The sheltopusik was previously included in the genus Ophisaurus, but has since been placed in its own genus Pseudopus. It was originally described in 1775 by Peter Simon Pallas as Lacerta apoda.[5]
Fossil record

An extinct subspecies from the Levant known as P. a. levantinus was described in 2021 from Natufian remains found in Israel.[6] Evidence suggests it was eaten by the local population at the time.[7]

The sheltopusik can reach a length of 135 cm (4.43 ft). It is tan colored, 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 the legs are barely discernible, the sheltopusik can be quickly distinguished from a snake by its ears, eyelids, and ventral scales.
Habitat and behaviour

P. apodus inhabits open country, such as short grassland or sparsely wooded hills. It 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. Breaking through the shells of snails is an especially easy task due to their teeth and jaw structure.
Defensive behaviour

Due to its size, the sheltopusik 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. The replacement tail may grow back to full length after an extended period of time.
Dolichophis jugularis preying on a sheltopusik
In captivity

Sheltopusiks 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. They are even known to accept these meals from a keeper's tweezers, or even from their hands once they become used to captivity. However, Sheltopusiks do get excited around food and have surprisingly powerful jaws. They make hardy captives, capable of living up to 50 years.

About 10 weeks after mating, the female P. apodus lays about eight eggs, which she hides under bark or a stone, and often guards them. The young hatch after 45 to 55 days. They are typically about 15 cm (5.9 in) long and usually start to eat after four days.
See also

List of reptiles of Italy


"Pseudopus apodus ". The Reptile Database.
Also spelled scheltopusik, sheltopusick, scheltopusick, sheltopusic, or scheltopusic.
Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. (Pseudopus apodus, p. 199).
Н. Б. Ананьева (2004). Атлас пресмыкающихся Северной Евразии: таксономическое разнообразие, географическое распространение и природоохранный статус. Зоол. инст. РАН. ISBN 978-5-98092-007-4.
Lacerta apoda. Peter Simon Pallas. Published: 1775.
Jablonski, D. (2021). "Morphological and genetic differentiation in the anguid lizard Pseudopus apodus supports the existence of an endemic subspecies in the Levant". Vertebrate Zoology. 71: 175–200. doi:10.3897/vz.71.e60800.

Schuster, Ruth. "Lizards Eaten by Prehistoric People in Today's Israel Were Unknown Subspecies". Haaretz.

External links

"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. Archived from the original on 2008-04-02. Retrieved 2008-01-19.

"Giant Legless Lizard". Central Pets. 2008-01-19. Archived from the original on 2007-10-16. Retrieved 2008-01-19.

Further reading

Arnold EN, Burton JA (1978). A Field Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Britain and Europe. London: Collins. 272 pp. + Plates 1-40. (Ophisaurus apodus, pp. 175, 178 + Plate 33, figures 1a-1b + Map 94).
Boulenger GA (1885). Catalogue of the Lizards in the British Museum Natural History). Second Edition. Volume II. ... Anguidæ ... London: Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History). (Taylor and Francis, printers). xiii + 497 pp. + Plates I-XXIV. (Ophisaurus apus, new combination, pp. 280–281).
Pallas PS (1775). "Lacerta apoda, descripta ". Novi Comentarii Academiae Scientiarum Imperialis Petropolitanae 19: 435-454 + Plates IX-X. (Lacerta apoda, new species). (in Latin).

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