Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 30.djvu/878

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The Glass-Snake.—We publish in this number of the "Monthly" two letters respecting the so-called joint-snake, of which the one by Dr. Hammond gives a clear and correct account of the natural history of the reptile, and ought to dissipate all doubts as to the origin and value of the stories that have been told respecting its peculiarities. It appears that the rejoining of the dissevered pieces of the animal is the only part of the stories that does not rest upon a rational foundation. The Ophisaurus of Dr. Hammond is also figured and described in Wood's "Natural History," from which the accompanying illustration is borrowed (Vol. III, p. 51), under the name of "the glass-snake." After speaking of the reptile as a native of North America, Dr. Wood says: "In this creature there is not even a vestige of limbs, so that it is even more snake-like than the preceding species [Scheltopusic, Pseudopus Pallasii of Africa]. The generic title of Ophisaurus is of Greek origin, signifying snake-lizard, and is given to the reptile on account of its serpentine aspect. The reader will remember that on page 48 there is an account of the saurophis [Saurophis tetradactylus of South Africa, which has four insignificant, very weak limbs], a name which is exactly the same as that of the present species, except that the one is called the lizard-snake and the other the snake-lizard, a distinction which, in the present case is without a difference, so that the two reptiles might exchange titles and yet be appropriately named. The glass-snake is indeed so singularly like a serpent that it can only be distinguished from those reptiles by certain anatomical marks, such as the presence of eyelids, which are wanting in true serpents, the tongue not sheathed at the base, and the solid jaw-bones, which in the serpents are so loosely put together that the parts become widely separated when the mouth of the creature is dilated in the act of swallowing its prey. The glass-snake

PSM V30 D878 Glass snake ophisaurus ventralis.jpg
Glass-Snake (Ophisaurus ventralis).

is one of the earliest of the reptile tribe to make its appearance in the spring. ... It is generally found in spots where vegetation is abundant. ... It is fond of frequenting the plantations of sweet-potato, and during harvest-time is often dug up together with that vegetable. The home of this reptile is made in some dry locality, and it generally chooses some spot where it can be sheltered