Burton’s legless lizard is mainly a crepuscular species (10), but is also known to sometimes be active at night in warm weather, and during the day in overcast conditions (2) (3) (10). This species’ vertical pupils give it good vision at night, as the pupils can open more rapidly than round ones, and have maximum expansion in low light conditions (6).
A terrestrial species, Burton’s legless lizard worms its way through dense grass tussocks and under small shrubs and fallen timber (9) (10), and is sometimes mistakenly called a ‘grass snake’ (9). This species holds its head and neck in a distinctive elevated posture when at rest or basking, maintaining an angle of about 45 degrees to the ground. If attacked by a predator, Burton’s legless lizard can be surprisingly vocal, producing loud squeaks, and its fragile tail may be easily shed as a defence mechanism (10).
Legless lizards are generally insectivorous, but Burton’s legless lizard is an unusual exception to this rule (7). This species is a lizard specialist (5) (6) (8), feeding exclusively on reptiles (2). While Burton’s legless lizard demonstrates a preference for skinks (9) (10) (11), a group which forms 95 percent of its diet (6), it also preys on other lizards (2) (7), including geckos, dragons and other legless lizard species (8) (10). There have even been reports of this unusual reptile preying upon certain snake species (6) (10).
Burton’s legless lizard is an ambush predator (2) (6) (10), lying in wait for its victim, concealed among thick, low vegetation (6). Prey is snatched via a sideways swipe of the legless lizard’s wedge-shaped snout, and is gripped tightly around the chest and suffocated (2) (10). Interestingly, Burton’s legless lizard has a special adaptation which enables it to do this. This species has a uniquely hinged skull, with an unusual hinge across the head, roughly at eye-level (2) (6), which provides greater mobility. This allows the upper and lower jaws to completely encircle the prey and meet at the tip (3) (5) (6).
The prey is firmly held in place by fine, backward-pointing teeth (3) (6), which are also hinged and lock into place when pressured from behind (6). Once the prey has been suffocated, it is then manipulated by flexing the skull to force the victim head-first down the lizard’s throat (6) (10), and is swallowed whole (5). These special adaptations enable Burton’s legless lizard to eat lizards that are particularly large relative to its own size (6).
Mating in Burton’s legless lizard occurs in the spring (10), with pregnant females being found from September to February (8). As in other flap-footed lizard species, Burton’s legless lizard is thought to lay a clutch of two, flexible-shelled eggs (6) (10), which are deposited under a rock or a log (10). Communal nests have been documented in this species, with a record of 20 eggs per nest (6) (8), and it is thought that Burton’s legless lizard may lay more than one clutch per breeding season (8).