Category Archives: Reptiles and Amphibians of Spain

Western Three-toed Skink

  • Spanish: Eslizón tridáctilo
  • Scientific: Chalcides striatus
  • English: Western Three-toed Skink
  • French: Scinque à trois doigts
  • German: Westliche Erzschleiche
  • Italian: Luscengola striata
  • Portuguese: Cobra-de-pernas-tridáctila

Description

Notable in the Western Three-toed Skink is the elongated serpent like body, often reaching lengths around 30 cm in total (12 inches). An intact tail can be longer than the head-body in length. Colouration is yellowish to brown or more often grey, with a metallic sheen.

They have 9 or more narrow, dark longitudinal stripes. The limbs are very short and have only 3 digits. It is very agile and fast as it moves across the surface. Females normally exceed males in length.

chalcides striatus – eslizón tridáctilo – western three-toed skink
chalcides striatus – eslizón tridáctilo – western three-toed skink – Tiny legs with just three toes

On the hottest days they restrict their movement to early in the morning or late evening remaining hidden during the main heat of the day and so regulating their body temperature. They prefer damp meadows and cool hillsides including seasonally flooded areas, abandoned fields, hedges and land with abundant herbaceous vegetation.

The Western Three-toed Skink feeds mainly on insects – crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars and spiders and worms etc.

Between March and June the breeding season begins. Between two and three months after mating, females give birth to 1 – 12 fully formed young. They are ovoviviparous (able to incubate the eggs inside the female)

  • Conservation Status: LC. Least Concern – The IUCN has listed the western three-toed skink as being of “Least Concern” because of its wide range and the fact that it is very common in some parts of its range. It is nevertheless threatened by changes in agricultural practices resulting in degradation of its habitat. In some areas it is persecuted because it is mistakenly thought to be venomous.
  • Distribution: Portugal, Spain, the Mediterranean coast of France, NW Italy.

Similar species: Bedriagai’s Skink (Chalcides bedriagai)


The Grazalema Guide

The best way to see all our web projects in one place is over at the Grazalema Guide.

The Grazalema Guide – Tourist Information Portal for the Sierra de Grazalema, Wildside Holidays, The town of Ronda and the Caminito del Rey.

http://grazalemaguide.com/

Bedriaga’s skink

  • Spanish: Eslizón Ibérico
  • Scientific: Chalcides bedriagai
  • English: Bedriagas Skink
  • French: Scinque iberique
  • German: Iberische Walzenskink
  • Italian: Lo scinco di bedriaga
  • Portuguese: Cobra-de-pernas-pentadáctila

Description

Bedriaga’s skink, a small reptile with four visible limbs, although very short (almost atrophied) with 5 digits to each. To move quickly, it holds its limbs against its body and moves like a snake. It is covered with smooth, shiny scales of variable tones: from copper to greyish brown or olive green, dotted with small black spots with pale centres and faintly marked stripes. Adults can reach up to 14 cm (5½ inches) in total length.

chalcides bedriagai – eslizón Ibérico – bedriagas skink
chalcides bedriagai – eslizón Ibérico – bedriagas skink

Most active during the day and twilight. They hide under rocks, decaying wood in undergrowth and underground as they can excavate loose soil easily. They live in scrubland, woodland clearings and stony areas.

The Bedriaga’s skink feeds mainly on small invertebrates, isopods and arachnids.

The mating period occurs between the months of March and June. They are ovoviviparous (able to incubate the eggs inside the female). They only give birth once a year. About 78 days after fertilization, during July or August, the females have 1 – 6 live young.

  • Conservation Status: T Threatened
  • Distribution: An Endemic Species. Distributed throughout the Iberian Peninsula, except the extreme north. Prefers a Mediterranean climate.

Similar species: Western Three-toed Skink (Chalcides striatus)


The Grazalema Guide

The best way to see all our web projects in one place is over at the Grazalema Guide.

The Grazalema Guide – Tourist Information Portal for the Sierra de Grazalema, Wildside Holidays, The town of Ronda and the Caminito del Rey.

http://grazalemaguide.com/

Southwest Iberian Worm Lizard

  • Spanish: Culebrilla ciega del Suroeste Ibérico
  • Scientific: Blanus mariae – (Formerly Blanus cinereus)
  • English: Southwest Iberian Worm Lizard
  • French: Amphisbène de Maria
  • German: Südwestiberische Netzwühle
  • Italian: Blano cenerino
  • Portuguese: Cobra-cega

Description

The Iberian worm lizard is a reptile that has adapted to life underground and looks very like an earth worm. Variable background colour from pinkish grey, reddish brown to brown. The cylindrical body is covered with quadrangular scales forming rings. The head is small and looks little different to the body, the snout is rounded. Their vision is vestigial, the eyes being two tiny black dots beneath the skin, while its sense of smell and hearing are highly developed.

Southwest Iberian Worm Lizard
Southwest Iberian Worm Lizard a sub species

They can reach a length of 250mm (10 inches) and rarely more. When they feel threatened they move rapidly and coil around whatever obstacle they can, be it a natural stick or something artificial. If caught they will give small, but strong bites. It is not venomous.

From early research it seems the examples from the Sierra de Grazalema area belong to the new species Blanus mariae. (Formerly Blanus cinereus)

Southwest Iberian Worm Lizard
Southwest Iberian Worm Lizard – Head and scales

Specialists in digging tunnels and in locating prey underground. They live under rocks and decaying fallen trees in small galleries preferring light, moist soil which allow easy excavation. They maintain an optimal body temperature by moving within the substrate.

Their diet is based on termites, ants and their larvae, also taking spiders, worms and millipedes.

Mating occurs between March and June. Laying between 1-3 eggs which are place under ground.

IUCN Conservation Status: LC Least Concern
Distribution: South western Iberian Peninsular (The examples from the Sierra de Grazalema area belong to the new species Blanus mariae. (Formerly Blanus cinereus)


Wildside Holidays – Spain

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Southwest Iberian Worm LizardSouthwest Iberian Worm Lizard
Southwest Iberian Worm Lizard in a hand

Invasive species – The red eared terrapin

  • Spanish: Galápago de Florida, Tortuga de orejas rojas
  • Scientific: Trachemys scripta elegans
  • English: Red eared terrapin

An invasive species, the red-eared terrapin (Trachemys scripta elegans), also known as the red-eared slider, red-eared slider turtle, red-eared turtle, slider turtle, and water slider turtle, is a semiaquatic terrapin belonging to the family Emydidae.

It is a subspecies of the “pond slider” (Trachemys scripta.) Read more about this invasive species at IUCN

The red-eared slider gets its name from the small red stripe around its ears and from its ability to slide quickly off rocks and logs into the water.

It was at one time, and probably still is, the most popular pet terrapin in the the world and hundreds of millions were sold worldwide during the 80’s and 90’s

In Spain this Invasive species, the red eared terrapin was available in pets shops across the country and also given as prizes (like a goldfish in the UK) in fun fairs. (The perfect prize given that they were small, easy to maintain and were very cheap to buy.)

Of course once they grow too big what is the answer? The very best scenario is that the turtle ends up in the garden pond of a family member or friend. But most of the time, the terrapin, is released into a local river or lake (with of course all the other “local” terrapins.)

The red-eared slider is included in the IUCN red list of the 100 most harmful invasive exotic species in the world, and is now banned from being sold in Spain (and most of the European Union)

However, a loophole in the law allowed the issue to continue when commercial companies in the United States switched from the red eared terrapin to the yellow-bellied slider (Trachemys scripta scripta) for European marketing.

Yellow-bellied slider (Trachemys scripta scripta)
Yellow-bellied slider (Trachemys scripta scripta). Don’t confuse this species with the male of The Mediterranean terrapin (Mauremys leprosa)

This loop hole was closed quite quickly but not before many hundreds of thousands of yellow-bellied slider (Trachemys scripta scripta) were also introduced into Europe.

In the Iberian Peninsular the red eared terrapin has become a very damaging and invasive intruder and is the main reason that the European pond terrapin (Emys orbicularis) a native species to Spain is struggling to survive. (Along with habitat destruction and general pollution.)

The Mediterranean terrapin (Mauremys leprosa), also native to Spain seems to be coping better with the onslaught of the Red eared slider but still, its numbers are reducing.The Red-eared slider is larger in size and much more aggressive. Their strength allows them to take the best areas of sunbathing, to defend themselves better against possible predators and hunt more efficiently.

Time will tell but right now in many places across Spain, in rivers and lakes the red eared terrapin seems to be winning the battle. A lesson to be learned no? You can’t introduce a species into a new environment without some form of change in the hierarchy of the area.


Wildside Holidays – Spain

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http://wildsideholidays.co.uk/

Mediterranean Pond Terrapin

  • Spanish: Galápago leproso
  • Scientific: Mauremys leprosa
  • English: Mediterranean Pond Terrapin
  • French: Émyde lépreuse
  • German: Spanische Wasserschildkröte
  • Italian: Tartaruga palustre iberica
  • Portuguese: Cágado-mediterrânico

Description

The shell of the Mediterranean pond terrapin is olive, brown or grey. The limbs are short and stout, with orange or yellow lines that fade in the older specimens. The carapace normally measures between 13 to 17cm (5 – 6¾ inches) but can occasionally reach 20 cm (8 inches) and is slightly convex in shape. The base of the shell is yellowish, with large blackish spots which fade with age.

It is relatively abundant in the rivers, reservoirs, ponds and all types of aquatic bodies in Spain with good vegetation and refuge on the banks. Sometimes they can be seen in dirty and contaminated water as is often the case when towns and villages in Spain have inadequate sewage treatment works.

They spend many hours sunbathing at the water’s edge or on semi-submerged logs and rocks, quickly diving and staying underwater for long periods at the slightest sign of danger.

The Mediterranean Pond Terrapin is a skilful hunter of fish, amphibians and their larvae, aquatic insects and also feed on carrion.

I have even observed them feeding on livestock excrement (goat and cow)

The breeding season begins in March continuing to July. Up to 22 eggs are laid days 15 to 68 days after copulation which are normally divided between 2 clutches with a 21 to 32 day interval. Hatching occurs after 56 to 82 days.

The name ‘leprosa‘, refers to the algae which grows on its shell which can cause a perforation and deformation of the plates and sometimes gives a malformed appearance. (If you have ever handled a Mediterranean Pond Terrapin then you have also probably noticed the awful stench coming from its shell!)

Conservation Status: not listed

Distribution: Spain, Portugal, southern France, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

Similar species: European Pond Terrapin (Emys orbicularis)


Wildside Holidays – Spain

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European Pond Terrapin

  • Spanish: Galápago europeo
  • Scientific: Emys orbicularis
  • English: European Pond Terrapin
  • French: Cistude d’Europe,
  • German: Europäische Sumpfschildkröte
  • Italian: Testuggine palustre
  • Portuguese: Cágado-de-carapaça-estriada

Description

The shell of the European pond terrapin has a black coloured background with yellow radial lines or spots in each plate. This basic scheme is variable, with specimens that have a lighter background and dark radial markings. The plastron (underside of the shell) also varies in colour, which can be completely dark or have large yellowish spots. The skin colour is black, dotted with various yellow markings. The head is large, and the tail long, especially in the males. The shell is wider in the rear section, and can measure around 20cm (8 inches), although more frequently between 12-15cm (5-6inches).

Spanish: Galápago europeo Scientific: Emys orbicularis English: European Pond Terrapin
Spanish: Galápago europeo Scientific: Emys orbicularis English: European Pond Terrapin

They live in water courses which have a slow current with lots of submerged and floating vegetation. They are active from early morning and control their temperature by sunbathing on semi-submerged rocks and logs etc. If disturbed they dive rapidly, going to the bottom and hiding in the mud until the danger has passed.
This species is an opportunist, taking advantage of many food sources such as aquatic insects, larvae, amphibians, fish and carrion.

The breeding season begins in March continuing to July. Up to 16 eggs are laid days 20 to 71 days after copulation which are normally divided between 2 clutches with a 15 to 28 day interval. Hatching occurs after 55 to 78 days.

Far less frequent than Spanish Terrapin (Mauremys leprosa) The threats to this species are habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation, the capture of specimens for the pet market and the introduction of exotic species and especially the contamination of waterways.

  • Conservation Status: NT. Near Threatened
  • Distribution: Europe, western Asia and Mediterranean Africa.
  • Similar species: Spanish Terrapin (Mauremys leprosa) of much lighter colour, a generally grey/brown shell and stripes on the necks of young and subadults.
Spanish: Galápago europeo Scientific: Emys orbicularis English: European Pond Terrapin
Spanish: Galápago europeo Scientific: Emys orbicularis English: European Pond Terrapin – NOTE THE EYE! 🙂

Wildside Holidays – Spain

The top wildlife, activity and walking holiday companies in Spain. Small family companies living and working in Spain. Local guides are the best!

http://wildsideholidays.co.uk/