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AKICILJ: Calling all biologists

So, does anyone know if slow worms externally fertilise their eggs? I've inadvertently decapitated the male of the slow worm pair that lives in our garden while giving the front lawn its first cut of the year. The female is alive and well, and by her plumpness seems heavy with eggs. She's been relocated to the back garden (which is where they've nested in previous years), hopefully to lay in peace.

Also, does anyone know how large their territories are? I haven't seen any other slow worms in the immediate area (bar a juvenile that we found when we demolished the second old shed a couple of years back), so I've assuming that the chances of her finding another mate are pretty slim.

Bugger. I could have done without this.

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As far as I can tell they don't lay for a few months, and may not have mated yet.

Having said that, they don't (from the little I can see) stick to mated couples, so there's probably a population kicking around rather than just the two. Also, they live for decades, so if she doesn't lay this year she'll have many more opportunities.

Thanks - I suspected that might be the case (re: the mating period).

Oh well. With a bit of luck she'll find another mate.

I'm just a bit narked that I managed to disturb their nest the year before last (shallow nest in the back lawn) and the year before that (hole under the now-demolished shed).

Could have been much worse. Could have been the female one.

It's extremely unlikely that slow worms externally fertilise their eggs. They're closely related to lizards and - as far as I'm aware - all lizards internally fertilise their eggs.

Slow worms are lizards, aren't they? I expect the answer is yes, they fertilize their eggs internally. via one of a pair of hemipenes, the same way snakes do.

They're ovoviviparous, which precludes external fertilisation (in non-parthenogenetic animals, anyway). The BBC claim in their collection of minifacts about slow worms that the females will mate with more than one male in a season, so with luck she's got a contigency plan. Bad luck all round, though, but these things do happen. I once mowed a frog to bits by accident, still feel a bit guilty about it.

(D'oh, not so clever as I think - I don't know why I put that bit in about parthenogenesis, since that precludes fertilisation of any kind anyway).

I believe we have a slow worm living in our compost bin at the moment. Not sure if it's male or female, though.

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