With just its head and front legs peeking out from its underground burrow, the Mexican mole lizard could pass for a slender, pink lizard — until it emerges completely, its body etched with ring after earthworm-like ring. But despite its regular lizard-like appearance, the reptile doesn’t have any hind legs. To the uninitiated, this lizard-on-top, worm-on-the-bottom creature appears to be a sort of serpentine centaur.
As arresting as it may be, the lizard’s appearance wasn’t what shocked Sara Ruane, a professor of evolutionary biology and herpetology at Rutgers University-Newark, when she discovered one in a trap in mid-June on a trip to Baja California to teach a course with the conservation group Islands & Seas.
“I was digging around [inside the trap], pulled this thing out and started screaming and shrieking and ran back the couple hundred meters to where the people we were with had the camp set up and was just shocked,” Ruane told Live Science. [Album: Bizarre Frogs, Lizards and Salamanders]
Ruane said she was so excited because although Mexican mole lizards are abundant in southwest Baja California, these burrowing creatures are rarely spotted aboveground.
She initially doubted herself only because she considered a Mexican mole lizard “some sort of mythical thing to find,” she said. Neither snake nor lizard nor worm, the Mexican mole lizard, Bipes biporus, shares the suborder Amphisbaenian along with three other species of two-legged burrowers.
The creature has, in fact, inspired a dark story that haunts some people who share its stomping ground: It’s said that the creature will wriggle out of toilets into the nether regions of unassuming bathroomgoers, aided by their suppository-shaped heads, the herpetologist Lee Grismer explains in the book, “Amphibians and Reptiles of…