Rules, however, are made to be broken.
There are also other Gekkotans who never acquired those magical toe pads or lost them somewhere down the line. Many are ground dwellers, where such things aren't as useful. Some geckos even have round pupils rather than the spooky slits we usually think of.
|Image: Mart Moppel|
Or maybe it's a tiny fraction of legs? The "Flap-footed" name comes from the small flaps that are all that remains of their hind legs. The front ones are gone entirely.
Like most Gekkotans, Pygopods can't move their eyelids. They have to lick their eyes clean!
And that brings us to Burton's Snake Lizard, the most widespread reptile in all of Australia. They're everywhere! The only part of Australia that hasn't fallen under their domain is the more chilly south eastern parts. To make up for that they have a tiny patch of New Guinea, which I suppose is where they keep their holiday home.
Beautiful, angry face. Like Jurassic Park's Velociraptors mixed with Baryonyx
And, unlike most Pygopods who satisfy themselves on a diet of insects, Burton's Snake Lizards are inveterate carnivores. They're really good at it, too!
They don't need to move too much because they're ambush predators. They can just stay put and snatch any lizard who wanders too close. Their favourite food by far is Skink, but they're not averse to other smooth-scaled lizards and snakes. For small prey, a quick lunge and swallow is all that's required. Larger fare requires the use of more tools in the armoury.
Burton's Snake Lizards have to be quick and accurate when they strike at larger prey. A lizard doesn't have to be too big before it has enough of a bite to cause real damage, and Snake Lizards have no venom so they can't just bite and
The upper jaw contains a flexible joint near the eye which means the entire snout can bend down to completely encircle prey and suffocate them. It also allows for a pretty good impersonation of a sock puppet. A murderous sock puppet with dozens of tiny, sharp teeth, like Chucky on a budget.
Video: Andrew Maddox
Those teeth are hinged so that they fall backward when pushed from the front, but are locked in mean and pointy position when pushed from the back. This allows a big mouthful of lizard to be walked down into a hungry throat with the help of a muscular, decidedly unsnakelike tongue.
Oh, and remember how they have a huge long tail? Well, if the initial strike doesn't work, Burton's Snake Lizards can wriggle their tail in a most appetising manner to lure a hitherto lucky lizard back within range.
A juvenile. He's so short and stubby!
Of course, the real reward for all this effort, aside from the sheer satisfaction of killing (they look the type), comes in the form of two, leathery eggs usually laid somewhere around November and January. They're left under logs or leaf litter and hatch to reveal youngsters about 13 cm (5 inches) long.
Such fortunate, young lizards. The whole of Australia lies at their feet... er, ventral surface.