Different coloured slow worms

Last week on our reptile hunt we saw a melanistic (entirely black) slow worm. Melanism is the opposite of albinism, and occurs where there is an excess of the dark pigment melanin. Black panthers are the melanistic form of the leopard, for instance. Melanistic slow worms are very unusual. I tried to get a photograph of it but it moved incredibly fast and erratically, thrashing itself around and making a very fast escape.

blurry melanistic slow worm

Its defensiveness was in total contrast to this gorgeous bronze female, which lay still for me to take a few photos before slithering calmly away. I read somewhere that melanistic reptiles warm up faster (dark colours absorbing more heat) and are therefore more lively. Also, they aren’t so well camouflaged and may therefore learn that keeping still is not an effective defence against a predator. I guess they have a limited amount of time to work that out. 😉

Lastly, this little juvenile is a very pretty colour.





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