Tag Archives: Lizards in Spain

Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus (Lacerta lepida)) Lagarto ocelado

  • English: Ocellated Lizard
  • Spanish: Lagarto ocelado or Lagarto
  • Portuguese: Sardão
  • Family: Lacerta
  • Distribution: Iberia, southern and western France, noth west Italy
  • Classification: Formerly classified as Lacerta lepida and now a species of Timon, a genus of lizard sometimes regarded as a subgenus of Lacerta, both of which belong to the family of Lacertidae (the wall lizards). They are commonly referred to as “ocellated” due to the eyelike spots of colour on the body. There are now two (formerly three) recognised subspecies as the subspecies T. nevadensis has been elevated to species level.
  • Timon lepidus ibericus – North-western Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) Their teeth are not arranged the same as the other sub-species, being more aligned and becoming larger and irregular towards the back of the mouth.
  • Timon lepidus oteroi is endemic to the island of Sálvora, in Galicia.
  • Timon nevadensis – Declared a species recently and present in South-Eastern Spain (Sierra Nevada area). They are duller in colour; their head also seems more pointed.
Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus ibericus(Lacerta lepida)) Lagarto ocelado
Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus ibericus(Lacerta lepida)) Lagarto ocelado

The ocellated lizard is the largest lizard resident in Europe growing to an adult size between 40 to 60 centimetres and sometimes reaching 90 centimetres. Generally, two thirds of the length is taken up by the thick tail. The legs, especially the hind legs, are muscular and strong, with long curved and sharp claws. The sides of the body are decorated with blue spots (especially during breeding season) and the back is a mixture of greens, browns, yellows and reds. The throat and belly, particularly of the males, are yellow. Adult males generally have more blue spots and always a larger, wider head.

Often though, you need to see both sexes at the same time to tell the difference between male and female. Females are generally smaller and sometimes have no blue spots at all. A long lived reptile they can live for as much as 25 years given a lot of luck and agility.

The species is found throughout almost all of Iberia, (plus Mediterranean France and southern Italy) and prefers habitats that are open to the sun, rocky scrub, olive plantations and grasslands. Juveniles seem especially at home close to dry river beds, lakes and water courses but adults seem to thrive in the driest of terrains. Territorial area is usually quite small and localised colonies can be made up of breeding adults, juveniles and young. When disturbed they will quickly run to the nearest cover or return to their burrow amongst tree roots or under a large rock.

Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus ibericus(Lacerta lepida)) Lagarto ocelado
Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus ibericus(Lacerta lepida)) Lagarto ocelado A female (I think!) emerging from her burrow.

Telling the difference between the sub species is very difficult but the geographical position will help. (See classification list at top). In reality only a capture and close inspection will reveal the true identification. Beware though as an adult can inflict a very painful bite which almost always festers and takes an age to heal!

Diet is very varied and made up of large insects, beetles and spiders, on occasion bird’s eggs, baby birds, small mammals, other lizards and small snakes. Fruits and berries will be eaten when available as well. Rabbit burrows are often occupied which of course means that a constant supply of young rabbit is available.

Breeding occurs in late spring and early summer, often accompanied by violent fights between males over territory and the right to mate with a female. Generally 5 to 12 eggs are laid between June and July in the ground and the incubation period is about 3 months. The young start to emerge during the month of September giving them only a few short weeks to find a food supply and a suitable safe place to hibernate through the winter.

Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus ibericus(Lacerta lepida)) Lagarto ocelado
Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus ibericus(Lacerta lepida)) Lagarto ocelado Juvenile with the unmistakeable spotty body.

Hibernation takes place from October until March or April depending on seasonal temperatures

The Ocellated lizard is preyed upon by Eagles such as Short toed (aguila culebrera) Circaetus gallicus. Large snakes will take young and juveniles but a fully grown adult only has one real enemy, man, and although reasonable populations are present in Spain and Portugal there has been a substantial decline in many areas due to habitat loss and persecution by hunters that fear the lizard eats all of the partridge eggs and young rabbits.

Lacerta (Timon) lepida – Lagarto ocelado - Large male
Lacerta (Timon) lepida – Lagarto ocelado – Large male

In the past larger lizards were hunted and eaten as well. A lizard stew in garlic and tomato sauce may sound tasty but beware as the main ingredient is now a protected species!


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.

https://grazalemaguide.com/

The Turkish Gecko

  • Spanish: Salamanquesa Rosada
  • Scientific: Hemidactylus turcicus
  • English: Turkish Gecko
  • French: Gecko nocturne
  • German: Europäische Halbfinger
  • Italian: Geco verrucoso
  • Portugese: Osga-turca

Description

A delicate-looking gecko which normally measures about 8-9.5 cm (3 -3¾ inches) including an intact tail, which is half the overall length. They are mainly pink in colour with black spots and paler areas, somewhat translucent, especially on the belly. The head is narrow and short, triangular in shape, their eyes are placed closer together than in the common gecko, with a vertical pupil.

The tail has alternating light and dark stripes providing it is the original, a regenerated tail will be smooth. Another characteristic of this species is that each digit has a curved claw. The toes are equipped with adhesive pads that allow them to adhere to vertical surfaces.

Nocturnal, spending the day hidden in the cracks of stone walls, in ruins, and rubble or under rocks and logs. This is reptile has adapted well to living with the man and is commonly seen hunting insects on summer nights near street lights and house walls etc.

The breeding season begins in March and lasts until July, consisting of 1 or 2 small eggs with the capability of laying up to 5 clutches per year. The eggs are are deposited under rocks, crevices in the ground etc and incubation lasts between 50 to 72 days.

Baby turkish gecko in Spain
Note the pinky translucent skin of the baby Turkish gecko.

IUCN Conservation Status: LC Least Concern

Distribution: Mediterranean Basin (Introduced elsewhere)

Similar species: Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica)


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/

Andalucian wall lizard – Podarcis vaucheri – Lagartija andaluza

  • English: Andalusian Wall Lizard
  • Scientific: Podarcis vaucheri
  • Spanish: Lagartija andaluza
  • French: Lézard Andalouse
  • German: Andalusischen Mauereidechse
  • Italian: Lucertola Andalusa
  • Portuguese: Lagartixa-andaluz
  • Distribution: southern Spain (Western Andalucia), central and northern Morocco, northern Algeria and northern Tunisia.
  • Similar species: Iberian wall lizard (Podarcis hispanicus) Lagartija ibérica (Basically if you are anywhere other than Western Andalucia its probably an Iberian wall lizard….) – Spanish Psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus) lives in open terrain and does not climb – Large Psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus) has 4 well defined darker stripes and much longer tail.
Andalucian wall lizard - Podarcis vaucheri – Lagartija andaluza
Andalucian wall lizard sunning itself on a pine tree

The Andalucian wall lizard – Podarcis vaucheri – Lagartija andaluza is a small, slender lizard with a somewhat flattened head and body. Their body length is between 4 and 6 cm (1½ to 2½inches). The tail can be more than twice the body length, bringing the total length to18 cm in the larger examples (7 inches). The males are the larger and more robust, with voluminous head and longer limbs. They display a wide variety of colours, the background can be brown, grey or green. The dorsal pattern of the males is usually green and brown with black spots forming broken or irregular lines. The females usually have more defined stripes.

Active throughout the year except during the coldest winter days they prefer habitas with platforms where they can sunbathe with close access to shelters, to hide in case of danger. They like to live in stony and rocky areas, old walls, buildings, tree trunks, etc.

Food consists of small insects, spiders, millipedes and gastropods.

Andalucian wall lizard - Podarcis vaucheri – Lagartija andaluza
Andalucian wall lizard – Podarcis vaucheri – Lagartija andaluza – Note the hatchlings blue tail.

Breeding can start from late February and lasts until July. During this period, the males engage in fights, after which the winner mates with the female. They can produce up to 4 clutches of eggs per year. 1-5 eggs per clutch are laid which take 48 to 82 days to hatch. At birth they have a brown dorsal colour often with a blue or green tail.

Andalucian wall lizard - Podarcis vaucheri – Lagartija andaluza
Andalucian wall lizard – Podarcis vaucheri – Lagartija andaluza – Males fighting during breeding season.

This species was formally treated as a subspecies of Podarcis hispanicus, (See below) but rose to the rank of species (Oliver et al. 2000) and was originally considered to only be in northern Africa, but has also been shown to be present in southern Spain (Harris et al. 2002).


The Iberian wall lizard – Podarcis hispanicus – Lagartija ibérica

To be honest, I can’t tell the difference between these two lizard species and some studies even point to interbreeding along the distribution frontiers.

Identification by geographic location is the key… basically, anywhere between Malaga along the coast towards Cádiz and then the Portuguese border and inland to the Sierra Norte de Seville and back towards Jaen seem to be the territory of the Andalucian wall lizard….. Anywhere else its the Iberian wall lizard…. (Any comments and corrections are most welcome)

Iberian wall lizard - Podarcis hispanica – Lagartija Ibérica
Iberian wall lizard – Podarcis hispanica – Lagartija Ibérica

There is also a subspecies of the Iberian wall lizard, Podarcis hispanica atrata that lives in the Columbretes Islands off the eastern coast of Spain on the way to the Balearics. See wikipedia article in Spanish here.

Iberia Nature Forum

Struggling with identifying those bugs and beasties? Why not check out the Iberia nature Forum!

Discover the Iberia Nature Forum – Environment, geography, nature, landscape, climate, culture, history, rural tourism and travel.

Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) Lución

  • Non-Venomous
  • Scientific: Anguis fragilis (The previous Spanish subspecies Anguis fragilis fragilis is now with the western European populations)
  • English: Slow Worm
  • Spanish: Lución
  • Portuguese: Licranço
  • Galician: Escáncer común
  • Family: Anguidae
  • Distribution: Northern Spain and north and central Portugal, as well as the entire European mainland. Western Europe, northern Europe and western Balcans)

Identification and similar species

The Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) Lución is the only truly legless lizard in Spain and Portugal. It can be distinguished from snakes by its eyelids and visible ear openings (features that all snakes lack) and from the Southwest Iberian Worm Lizard (Blanus mariae) by its eyes, these being vestigial and almost invisible in the worm lizard. The Western Three-Toed Skink (Chalcides striatus) is also somewhat similar but on closer inspection will show its small limbs with three toes.

The Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) Lución is the only truly legless lizard in Spain and Portugal. It can be distinguished from snakes by its eyelids and visible ear openings
The Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) Lución is the only truly legless lizard in Spain and Portugal. It can be distinguished from snakes by its eyelids and visible ear openings

In coloration Anguis fragilis has an overall uniform colour, usually brown, grey or bronze but sometimes red or copper, with the underneath a shade of grey. Males are fairly plain but females often have a vertebral stripe, dark sides and belly. The young are a striking gold or silver with a similar stripe and dark patterning to the female. In addition to normal coloration, both albino and melanistic (very dark or all black) individuals have been found. The scales are smooth. Apart from the variation in coloration there are no known differences among the Iberian populations.

Adult Slow Worms reach about 50 cm, of which more than half may be the tail if unregenerated (i.e. not broken off). However, regenerated tails are quite common in this species, as they frequently “break” and the regenerative process is very slow.

Another easy way to distinguish the Slow Worm from a snake is its rather awkward wriggling way of movement as opposed to the smooth, apparently effortless gliding of a snake.

Habitat and distribution on the Iberian Peninsular

The species is found in northern areas of Spain and Portugal including Catalonia, the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias, Castilla y Leon, Galicia and the Pyrenees up to around 2,400 metres. In fact, in terms of habitat, it is very adaptable being found from sea level to high mountain altitudes generally and also in a variety of environments including meadows, areas of undergrowth, railway and even motorway embankments.

Spain Distribution map of the Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) Lución
Spain Distribution map of the Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) Lución

The above map comes from the excellent website Aves de Extremadura: http://aves-extremadura.blogspot.com/2017/05/el-lucion-anguis-fragilis-en-extremadura.html (In Spanish) The yellow arrows shows the furthest South that a Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) Lución has been recorded.

The common factor seems to be that the ideal environment is damp but not wet and not too sunny, possibly why this species is not found in the south of the Iberian Peninsula.

Slow Worms are reclusive animals, so their habitat is often characterised by plentiful cover in the form of undergrowth, fallen leaves, stones, etc. They often hide beneath rocks or fallen wood, manmade items such as sheet iron or rubber mats also being utilised.The species is diurnal (daytime active), its maximum activity normally taking place 5-10am and 6-9pm in Spain and Portugal. It may also be encountered after a shower of rain, possibly because of the greater possibility of finding gastropod prey.

What does a slow worm eat?

The Slow Worm preys mainly on gastropods (small slugs and snails) a great reason the species should be a welcome visitor to any garden. 🙂 It will also take arthropods and sometimes small reptiles, basically anything that will fit in its mouth.

Breeding and hibernation

In Iberia the Slow Worm emerges from hibernation in March. Courtship and mating take place in April to May, males fighting and wrestling each other. The mating ritual itself may last up to 10 hours. The females give birth to live young (ovoviviparous birth) after 11-13 weeks and in the days leading up to birth, the female can often be seen basking in the sun on a warm road. 5-26 young are born but on average 6-12 is more normal.

In western Europe males breed at the age of 3-4 years, females at 4-5 years. Slow Worms enter hibernation in autumn, often forming communal dens of up to 100 individuals together with salamanders and (in a hibernation truce!) vipers in suitable frost-free places such as holes in the ground or among roots.

These slow and inoffensive reptiles are known for their incredible longevity – 10-15 years in the wild is cited by one authority, another suggests 30 years, and there is a captive record for no less than 54 years.

The Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) Lución is the only truly legless lizard in Spain and Portugal. It can be distinguished from snakes by its eyelids and visible ear openings
The Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) Lución is the only truly legless lizard in Spain and Portugal. It can be distinguished from snakes by its eyelids and visible ear openings

The Slow Worm appears to be fairly abundant in its range and therefore less endangered by human activity than some other creatures. Unfortunately it is sometimes still mistaken for a snake and may be persecuted as a result. Across its range it has various predators including small carnivores, several birds of prey and snakes, including the Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca) but probably the most damaging to populations is the domestic cat.


Iberia Nature Forum

Struggling with identifying those bugs and beasties? Why not check out the Iberia nature Forum!

Discover the Iberia Nature Forum – Environment, geography, nature, landscape, climate, culture, history, rural tourism and travel.