If you were on a surf trip in Baja California, Mexico, and you saw this creature crawling around in the sand and thought, “hmmm, a worm with arms,” you’re probably not the only person who’s been fooled.
It is not a worm, even though it looks exactly like a worm — it’s actually a relative of the lizard.
The Mexican mole lizard, Bipes biporus, aka the “five-toed worm lizard” is one of four amphisbaenians that have legs—two forelegs, to be exact, although there are still vestigial bones where they used to have hind legs. Adding to the disguise is their color (pink) and the fact that they burrow and spend most of their time underground.
They even breed underground, laying one to four eggs each July, and only surface at night or after a heavy rain. And just like the earthworms they so closely resemble, these lizards move underground using peristalsis (contraction and relaxation of the muscles in a wave motion) of their segments, rather than their forelegs.
The forelegs come in handy when the lizards are attacking their prey. Unlike worms, which dine on dirt and organic matter in the soil, the Bipes eat ants, termites, terrestrial insects, larvae, actual earthworms, and even other lizards. They use their tiny appendages to wrest their prey down to the ground.
Bipes are pretty long, between seven and nine inches, but they don’t last very long. They typically only live for one to two years, and are only found on the Baja Peninsula.