Added 25 November 2001. Last updated 27 March 2014: added entries for L. cappadocia urmiana, L. cappadocia muhtari and L. media media, and updated 2014 classification notes and Bibliography.

A look at the Family Lacertidae


Green Lizards


Lacerta lizards are perhaps the species most commonly associated with the Lacertidae, being overall the most commonly seen lizards in European nature and the physically the largest of the family. Most are a shade of green in colour, often very vivid in males, and all have a very similar body plan. Not much work has been done in recent years, at least in the UK, with captive Lacerta lizards, but some at least have the very great attraction of becoming tame quite readily. Their care, at least of the better known and larger species, is also fairly straightforward. Most if so far offered have been wild-caught, but captive breeding is now being carried out and some young are already being offered for sale. Certainly many of the Lacerta species should adapt well to captivity, as they are often species accustomed to harsh winters and the cooler climates of Europe, and can therefore be kept outdoors for at least some of the year with the attendant benefits of natural sunlight.

The genus Lacerta has the following characteristics: unspecialised body structure; band of enlarged scales around neck: round or slightly compressed fingers and toes which lack fringes of scales; enlarged anal shield in front of cloacal slit.

It should be noted that the taxonomy of the genus Lacerta has seen some upheaval in recent years. In particular some species which were formerly considered Lacerta, in particular the parthenogenetic ones, have been assigned to the genus Darevskia. Lacerta viridis, the Green Lizard, has given rise to two other species in Europe and Asia Minor, while completely new species have been described.

General Care

As a rule these are hardy lizards, especially if they can be treated for any parasites caught in the wild. Larger lacertids, especially L. lepida, require roomy terraria (4' x 2' by 1½' is probably the bare minimum for an adult pair), but the smaller Lacerta species will normally do fine in the sort of terrarium one might keep leopard geckos in, such as an adapted aquarium. The larger lacertids, again, may also benefit from being allowed out for exercise when adult sized (they are unlikely to get lost if the room is properly secured), but this is really not an option for the smaller lizards. If their tank is reasonably sized then they should not need the extra running space anyway.

Other requirements are: UV light: a heat gradient from the mid-to-upper seventies to about 85-90 deg F at the hot end: and rocks and branches to climb on. Although these lizards are not usually arboreal they are in fact notably good climbers and jumpers, especially on rock faces and walls. For a hidebox don't be afraid to use an ordinary cardboard box with a hole cut in one end, as the lizard(s) will use this as another climbing apparatus as well as somewhere to hole up for the night (even if they shelter behind it instead). For substrate you can use newspaper for the larger lizards if you change it reasonably often, whereas a sand or similar mixture (such as perlite-free potting soil) often does well for smaller lizards and usually looks better. For breeding purposes a winter cooling period is probably beneficial if not essential. Most of these species are egg-layers, with exceptions noted below.

This page covers all the members of the genus Lacerta. To see only those members found within Europe, visit the European lacertid page.

Further notes on classification, 2014

Since these pages were put up in the early 2000s, the classification of Lacerta has been further complicated (or clarified, depending on your point of view), and several species once belonging to Lacerta have now been elevated to their own genus. Not all these changes seem to be universally accepted, at least in common understanding (eg Wikipedia), but there are normally good reasons for accepting them if they are peer-reviewed and printed in reputable scientific journals.

The changes are as follows:

These changes are based on the paper by Arnold, Arribas & Caranza (2007), “Systematics of the Palaearctic and Oriental lizard tribe Lacertini (Squamata: Lacertidae: Lacertinae), with descriptions of eight new genera”.




L. agilis, Sand Lizard

L. anatolica, Anatolian Rock Lizard

L. andreanski, Andreanszky's Rock Lizard

L. aranica,

L. aurelioi,

L. bedriagae, Bedriaga's Wall Lizard

L. bilineata, Western Green Lizard

L. bonnali,

L. brandtii,

L. cappodocica, Cappodocian Rock Lizard

L. chlorogaster,

L. cyanisparsa, Sparse Blue Lizard

L. cyanura,

L. danfordi, Danford's Lizard

L. defilippii, Elburz Lizard

L. dryada,

L. fraasii,

L. graeca, Greek Rock Lizard

L. herseyi,

L. horvathi, Horvath's Rock Lizard

L. jayakari,

L. kulzeri,

L. laevis,

L. lepida, Ocellated/Jewelled Lizard

L. media,

L. monticola, Iberian Rock Lizard

L. mosorensis, Mosor Rock Lizard

L. mostoufii,

L. oertzeni,

L. oxycephala, Sharp-Snouted Rock Lizard

L. pamphylica, Pamphylican Rock Lizard

L. parva, Dwarf Rock Lizard

L. praticola, Meadow Lizard

L. schreiberi, Schreiber's Lizard

L. steineri, Ocellated/Jewelled Lizard

L. strigata, Caucasian Green Lizard

L. trilineata, Balkan Green Lizard

L. viridis, Green Lizard

L. vivipara, Common/Viviparous Lizard

L. zagrosica



Scientific Name

Common Name





L. agilis
Subadult L. agilis courtesy of Chris Davis. Click on the image for the full-sized picture.

Sand Lizard

Europe (except Ireland, Scandinavian peninsula and Mediterranean), Transcaucasia, temperate Asia as far as Lake Baikal


Very widely distributed lacertid across Europe and N. Asia with many subspecies, thanks largely to tolerance of wide range of conditions, although recently it has been threatened by habitat loss and the use of chemicals. Heaths and edges of forests are especially favoured, but Sand Lizards can also be found fairly commonly on sunny railway embankments and the like, and will even take up residence near human habitats. Low altitudes are preferred, but again it will take mountains in its stride and has been found as high as 3,500 m. These lacertids are also extremely territorial, and pairs or individuals will mark out and defend a small area as their own where they will live and breed for years. Hibernation, at least in temperate parts, begins in October and ends in March-April. The waking lizards eat heavily and after two moults assume their colours, upon which they seek a mate. Sexual dichroism (ie colour differentiation) is pronounced: males have green sides with dark ocelli ("eyes") and a brown back, while females have light brown sides instead of green. There are some variations on this basic theme: adult males of L. a. grusinaca in particular are totally green, while the females are green with brown flanks. Females lay 5-15 eggs in early summer: incubation time is comparatively short, just five weeks. Depending on the part of their range, they lay 1 or 2 clutches per year.

For information on the conservation of the Sand Lizard in the UK, please click here. B I

L. a. agilis

W & C Europe

L. a. argus

C & E Europe

L. a. boemica

Daghestan, NE Caucasus

L. a. bosnica

Former Yugoslavia, Bulgaria

L. a. brevicaudata

C Transcaucasia, Armenian mtns and adj. NE Turkey

L. a. chersonensis

E Poland, S Russia W of Dniepr, Rumania, N Bulgaria

L. a. exigua

SE & C Russia (Dniepr to Lake Baikal)

L. a. grusinica

Black Sea south of Caucasus

L. a. ioriensis

R Iori, Georgia

L. anatolica

Anatolian Rock Lizard

Turkey, Greece


?. B I

L. a. aegaea

? Lizard

Turkey (NW Anatolia, W of Aydin)



L. a. anatolica

? Lizard

Samos (Greece)



L. andreanski

Atlas Dwarf Lizard/Andreanszky's (Rock) Lizard

Morocco (W & C High Atlas)


Small brown lizard apparently resembling a half-grown Lacerta vivipara. It is at home mainly in mountainous areas, although not inaccessible to man. Within these areas many are found within thorn cushion thickets, which offer several advantages including cover, microclimate, condensation and food sources. Diet consists of small arthropods, including spiders and aphids, and seeds. The mountain climate can be severe in winter and L. andreanski may hibernate from October till March. Main predator is the dwarf viper Vipera monticola. Ventral scale rows: 6 (31-32 transverse rows in females). Anal surrounded by 6-7 preanals. Scalation details: Small 1st & 4th supraocular. Supraciliary granules each side 0-5. Occipital and intraparietal sometimes separated. 5th supralabial touches eye. Nostril between two nasals, close to rostral and 1st supralabial. Collar: 6-10 (usually 9) scales. Throat: 19-22 scales between inframaxillary and collar. Femoral pores: 18-22 on each side. Dorsal scales: smooth, 36-42. Tail scales slighty keeled dorsally. Reproduction: sexual maturity is reached at its earliest at 1½ years, later at higher altitudes due to colder climate. Breeding period lasts from late March/April to June, with three clutches of 1-3 (usually 2) eggs being laid per season. [All details taken from Kästle et al]. B I

L. aranica

? Lizard

Spain (C Pyrenees), France


Until quite recently considered a subspecies of L. bonnali: see EMBL database entry for taxonomic history. B I

L. aurelioi

? Lizard

N. African mtns: Minorca


?. B I

L. bedriagae bedriagae

Bedriaga's Wall Lizard



L. bedriagae is found mainly at high altitudes (600 to over 2,000 m.), although in the north of Sardinia it will descend to the coast. Its usual habitats are woodland streams or pools: the lizards lay close to the edge or on overhanging stones and rocks, and will even enter the water itself, being good swimmers. In this they are somewhat akin to L. vivipara. Tails are significant in this species, being half as long again in adults as the body. Juveniles have a bright green-blue tail: as is the case with much lizard coloration, this fades with adulthood. Only the adult males reach a full 11", the normal length being 8". B I

L. b. ferrerae

N tip of Sardinia (restricted coastal range)

L. b. pressleri

Limbara Mts, Sardinia

L. b. sardoa

Gennargenta Mts, Sardinia

L. bilineata

Western Green Lizard

S Switzerland, N Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, San Marino, W Germany (Rivers Rhine and Nahe), Channel islands (UK), USA (Kansas, urban Topeka, introduced)


Until quite recently considered part of L. viridis: see Reptile Database entry for taxonomic history. B I

L. b. bilineata



L. b. chloronota

Sicily, Calabria


L. b. fejervaryi

Campagnia, Apulia (Italy)


L. bonnali

? Lizard

Spain (C Pyrenees), France


Until quite recently considered a subspecies of L. monticola: see Reptile Database entry for taxonomic history. L. bonnali is found between 1,968 and 2,900m in the vicinity of lakes and along rocky clifftops. Dorsum is olive-brown or sometimes green, with a faint pattern. The lower surfaces are yellowish-white or greenish. Although there are alternate bands of narrow and wide scales on the tail, the difference is barely perceptible. Scalation: Rostral in extensive contact with internasal. Supranasal contacts loreal. Dorsal scales: vary in form, 40-48 scale rows midbody. Can be distinguished from P. muralis by scalation details and unspotted underside. Reproduction: hibernation lasts from November to March. Otherwise breeding appears to be the same as or very similar to that of L. monticola. 5-8 eggs are laid in July. B I

L. b. aranica

Considered a full species by some: see L. aranica.

L. b. bonnali


L. brandtii

Brandt's Persian Lizard

NW Iran, S Azerbaijan


May also appear as Darevskia brandtii. B I

L. cappodocica

Cappodocian Rock Lizard

Turkey (Cilician Taurus, E of the Euphrat River, region around Diyarbakir and Viranehir, E Siirtizre, Amanus Mts and surroundings), NE Iraq, NW Iran, W Syria


?. B I

L. c. cappodocica

Turkey (Cilician Taurus)

L. c. muhtari

E of the Euphrates River and NE Iraq

L. c. schmidtlerorum

SE Turkey (Diyarbakir and Viransehir areas)

L. c. urmiana

E Siirt-Cizre (Turkey), NE Iraq, NW Iran

L. c. wolteri

S Turkey, NW Syria

L. chlorogaster

? Lizard

SE Azerbaijan, NW Iran


?. B I

L. cyanisparsa

Sparse Blue Lizard

NW Syria, adjacent Turkey


Species only established in 1999: see EMBL database entry for details. The common name is my own attempt at an interpretation of the Latin species name. B I

L. cyanura

? Lizard

Oman Mts (Oman and UAE)


Also known as Omanosaura cyanura. Its name derives from its blue tail, although this feature is found in several other lacertid species. According to van der Kooij, this is a low-density species that may be quite rare as it is seldom encountered in the field. It is apparently out during the hottest part of the day. L. cyanura has been bred in captivity on occasion. B I

L. danfordi

Danford's Rock Lizard

Turkey (Bolkar Dar mountains and C south coast) and some Greek islands


Colonises suitable habitats from coastal regions to mountain altitudes at nearly 3,000m: prefers stony areas, frequently walls. Colouring and pattern are fairly variable, but as a rule there is a paler area on the dorsum from the back of the head across the entire back: this is enclosed by a darker dorsolateral stripe on each side. On both back and flanks there is an irregular speckling effect. The young are distinguished by striking blue-green tails. Engelmann et al note the similarity in both appearance and ecology to the more westerly Podarcis muralis, the Wall Lizard. B I

L. d. anatolica

Asia Minor

L. d. bileki


L. d. danfordi


L. d. oertzeni

Icaria and Samos

L. d. pelasgiana


L. d. pentanisiensis

Pentanisos (E of Rhodes)

L. defilippii

Elburz Lizard

N Iran and adj. S Turkmenistan


?. B I

L. dryada

? Lizard

NE foothills of the Pontic Ridge (NE Turkey and SW Georgia)


?. B I

L. fraasii

? Lizard

Lebanon Mts


?. B I

L. graeca

Greek Rock Lizard

Peloponnese peninsula


Sympatric with but less abundant than the Peloponnese Wall Lizard, found mainly above 400 m. It is a good climber, aided by its long tail which is 2½ times the length of the body. Favoured habitats are areas near water shaded by vegetation: walls, vineyard terraces, roadsides, ditches, and rock faces with shaded fissures. It likes tall vegetation for the shade and will also live in open woods. Colouring is less variable than among many other lacertids: the back is a greyish green with latitudinal rows of short black stripes and spots which in the males are denser. Ventral surfaces in both sexes are a bright yellow with small dark spots. B I

L. herseyi

? Lizard



I have only found mention of this in the EMBL database, to which I refer the reader. Apart from Austin (listed in the EMBL entry) no other source seems to know of this. It would indeed be remarkable if England were to suddenly find itself with a fourth lizard species. B I

L. horvathi

Horvath's Rock Lizard

NW Croatia, Slovenia, NE Italy, Austria, S Germany (Karwendal Mts)


More plainly marked montane lacertid, apparently somewhat similar in appearance to P. muralis muralis, whose distribution range it partly shares (plus that of Lacerta vivipara). The head is fairly blunt and short. L. horvathi is usually found above 500m in moist mountainous areas, in either open beech or conifer forests or above the treeline. It dwells among rocks, including road cuttings, and ambushes insect prey from crevices, sometimes leaping into the air to do so [Arnold et al]. Scalation details: usually 1 postnasal: rostral scale usually contacts frontonasal; 1st supratemporal large, often cuts into parietal; 5 pairs of chin shields. Collar: smooth-edged. Dorsal scales: flattish, unkeeled. Coloration details: dorsally brown, the back being much paler than the sides. Dark vertebral streak or irregular spotting may be present. Throat is white, belly either white or (often) yellow. Reproduction: no details yet available. The young are similar to adults in appearance but often have a greenish-grey tail. B I

L. jayakari

? Lizard

Oman Mts (Oman and UAE)


Also known as Omanosaura jayakari. It is mostly found in or near wadis (van der Kooij). B I

L. kulzeri

? Lizard

Higher mountains of Lebanon


?. B I

L. k. kulzeri

L. k. petraea

L. laevis

Syrian Rock Lizard

SE Turkey (middle Taurus Mts., Hatay region), NW Syria, Lebanon, Israel, W Jordan, Cyprus


?. B I

L. l. laevis

L. l. troodica


L. lepida
[Timon lepida]

Male Lacerta lepida

Female Lacerta lepida

Eyed Lizard/
Ocellated Lizard/
Jewelled Lizard [Sp: Lagarto ocelado]

S. France, Iberia, NW Italy; NW African coast


The largest of the lacertid family and a deservedly popular terrarium subject. There are three subspecies of the Eyed Lizard. The preferred habitats are shrubbed areas, old vineyards and olive groves and orchard, but it is fairly catholic in its tastes. Interestingly, though, the northern limits of its distribution coincide with those of olive trees. It is also found at various altitudes, including 1,000 m. in the Alps and 2,100 m. in the Pyrenees. Being considerably larger than other lacertids, in addition to the usual invertebrates the Eyed Lizard sometimes also takes young birds, rodents and reptiles, and in summer also eats fallen fruit. It shelters in either abandoned rodent burrows or hollow tree trunks. Hibernation usually commences in October and ends in February-March. Females lay clutches of anything up to 20 or more eggs in April-May: the young, about 6cm, hatch in about 3 months. Adults are easily sexed: the males are normally larger and brighter, with the large blue spots ("eyes", hence the common name) along their sides. Females tend more to a brown colour with the spots much less discernible. Young lacertids are differently coloured from the adults. The heads of both sexes are covered in large scales. Despite their much larger size, Eyed Lizards are just as fast and as agile climbers as the smaller species. Scalation details: 5 supraciliaries separated from supraoculars by a row of 6-10 granules. Large occipital. 7-8 supralabials of which 5th touches eye. Nasal orifice delimited by nasal, rostral, 1st supralabial and 2 postnasals 1 loreal behind the postnasals followed by a frenocular. 2 preoculars in front of the eye. 2 large supratemporals on each side. 6 sublabials and 6 submaxillaries on each side. There is no maseterica and the tympanica is rarely differentiated. Collar: 6-10 (usually 9) scales. Throat: 26-39 scales between mandibular sinfisis and centre of collar. Femoral pores: 11-16 on each side. Dorsal scales: rounded or elliptical on the centre of the dorsum, 63-84. Ventral scale rows: 8-10 rows of trapezoid scales. Reproduction: the breeding season varies according to the location and climate of the individual. In France courtship takes place in April-May, the eggs being laid at the end of May or beginning of June, whereas the season is longer in Alicante, Spain, where gravid females are seen between April and July [Salvador]. Females dig a hole 7-9cm deep with their hind limbs and deposit 5-24 eggs.

For the Eyed Lizard in captivity, please click here.

L. l. lepida



L. l. iberica



L. l. nevadensis

SE Spain


L. l. oteroi



L. media

Eastern Green Lizard

NE Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, NW Iran, E Turkey (E south coast and adj. regions, E C Anatolia, Hatay, S of Asi Nehri River [Orontes]), N Israel, NW Jordan, NW Syria, Lebanon, S Russia


?. B I

L. m. ciliciensis

L. m. isaurica

L. m. israelica

L. m. media

L. m. wolterstorffi

L. monticola

Iberian Rock Lizard [Sp: Lagartija serrana]

Iberian peninsula


Very hardy montane and saxicolous lizard, found mainly in the high mountains, where it lives among crags and outcrops, but also at low or medium altitude on the edges of woods or in clumps of pines or juniper bushes. Unusually for European lizards, these lacertids are usually active during the bad weather frequently found in the mountains, sometimes on sunny days even being seen traversing snow. In summer they tend to be more active before midday, with activity dropping off in the afternoon. They are also somewhat communal in their habits. Colouring and patterning are very variable: however, sexual dichromism is marked, with the females often an overall brown with faint dark dorsal longitudinal stripes. The males are more varied: some have black spots on a green back and bluish sides, and sexually adult males have a belly that can be light green, pink or bright orange. Note that L. m. bonnali is now usually described as a full species: see L. bonnali. Prey consists largely of coleopterans, dipterans and other insects. Scalation details: Rostral may or may not be in contact with internasal. 1 postnasal in contact with internasal. Maseterica and tympanica both present. Collar: 5-13 scales. Throat: 20-28 scales between join with submaxillaries and central scale of collar. Femoral pores: 11-21 on each side. Dorsal scales: somewhat larger than those of the side: flattened or slightly convex, smooth or somewhat keeled. See subspecies below for more details. Ventral scale rows: 23-29 transverse rows in males, 26-33 in females. Tail: usually alternative bands of narrow and wide scales (but see subspecies). Reproduction: hibernation lasts from October to February. The breeding season lasts from April to June, during which time the colours of both sexes show a very visible green-yellow and spots on the flanks become quite pronounced. 5-8 eggs are laid July-August: egg size varies according to subspecies. Salvador notes that captive specimens from Guadarrama laid eggs which took 35 days to hatch: this shortish incubation period is probably necessitated by the altitude and climate. B I

L. m. monticola

Portugal (Serra da Estrèla)


Dorsum green or yellowish-green, with a reddish brown centre. Ventrum green or yellow-green blotched with black. Found between 1,450m and 1,975m altitude and is common near lakes. Scalation details: Rostral usually separated from internasal. Dorsal scales: not flattened, slightly keeled, 48-57.

L m. bonnali

French Pyrenees (Lake Bigorre region)


See L. bonnali.

L m. cyreni

Spain (Sierra de Guadarrama, Sierra de Gredos)


Dorsum green-blue.Ventrum pale green-grey or pale green-blue. In Gredos it is found in abundance at the alpine level between large rock formations and lakes, while in Guadarrama it has been observed at its lowest at 1,800m in rock faces At its highest level (2,300m) it is found near mountain tops. Scalation details: Rostral usually contacts internasal.

L m. cantabrica

NW Spain (Cantabrian mtns)


Found not only among rocks but also in deciduous woods and on land planted with the shrub Erica scopatria. In Galicia especially it occupies a wide variety of habitats, from deciduous mountain woods to coastal enclaves at the low altitude of 50-90m. Dorsum greenish in males and brown-grey in females. Ventral surfaces green-yellow. Males possess 1-2 bluish or bluish-green spots on each shoulder. Scalation details: Rostral may be in slight or full contact with internasal or not at all. Dorsal scales are somewhat scaled, with 46-62 at mid-body. Alternation on tail between broad and narrow bands clearly visible. Sympatric with P. muralis, which it closely resembles, but can be distinguished by lesser amount of spotting (or absence thereof) on the underside. Also the rows of granules between the supraciliaries and supraoculars are usually complete, as opposed to being normally incomplete in P. muralis.

L. mosorensis

Mosor Rock Lizard

S Dalmatia, Hercegovina, Montenegro and islands


Sympatric with L. oxycephala, but found mainly at 600-1,500 m. The high rainfall in these areas are essential to its survival in the mountains, where it lives among caves, fissures and recesses. In coloration it is quite different from L. oxycephala, being an overall earth brown with small black dorsal markings and a corn yellow belly. B I

L. mostoufii

? Lizard

E Iran (Dasht E Lut desert)


The EMBL database entry notes that the validity of this species has been questioned. B I

L. oertzeni

? Lizard

Greece (Ikaria Island), Turkey (W south coast), Turkey (between Kas and Finike), Turkey (western and central south coast), Turkey (western south coast, between Milas and Fethiye) and Greece (Rhodes and surrounding islands)


?. B I

L. o. budaki

L. o. finikensis

L. o. ibrahimi

L. o. oertzeni

L. o. pelasgiana

L. oxycephala

Sharp-Snouted Rock Lizard

Dalmatia, Hercegovina, Montenegro and islands


Distributed over a relatively small area (mainly coastal regions of the Adriatic), but reasonably abundant. L. oxycephala is an excellent climber and is found on limestone mountains at up to 1,500 m as well as on the walls of stone buildings up to 90 ft high: apparently it is quite a tourist attraction on the walls of the medieval harbour of Korcula in the former Yugoslavia. The body and head are somewhat flattened, allowing it to squeeze into crevices. The colouring of the lizard is very distinctive, the brown reticulated markings on the back giving way to a blue tail with blackish hoops and a green head. The belly is the same pale blue as the tail. Melanistic black individuals with cobalt blue throats are occasionally encountered, usually at high altitude or among island populations. Females lay eggs in early summer: incubation is six weeks. The young measure 5 cm. B I

L. pamphylica

Pamphylican Green Lizard

Turkey (C south coast)


?. B I

L. parva

Dwarf Rock Lizard

Armenia, Turkey (C and NE Anatolia): poss. also NW Iran, Asia Minor


?. B I

L. praticola

Meadow Lizard

NE Balkans, Caucasus


The range of the Meadow Lizard is actually quite restricted, consisting of a few isolated populations. It likes damp, well-planted habitats, such as stream banks and meadows around mountain streams. This species is often confused with L. vivipara (Viviparous Lizard), but the two species can be told apart by their anal plates. In the Meadow Lizard this is larger and ringed with a single row of small scales, while in the Viviparous Lizard it is surrounded by several rings of small scales. The colouring is an overall light brown, with a yellow belly. Note that some authorities, including the EMBL database, consider this to be a member of the genus Darevskia instead. B I

L. p. pontica

W Caucasus, Rumania and Bulgaria

L. p. praticola

E Caucasus

L. schreiberi Photo by Linda Sillence, courtesy of Chris Davis. Click on the image to see the full picture.

Schreiber's Lizard [Sp Lagarto verdinegro]

Spain (N & C), Portugal


Smaller than but similar to the Eyed Lizard in appearance and diet, while inhabiting similar habitats to those of the Green Lizard. In the north it prefers lowlands but in the south can be found at up to 1,800 m. There are colour variations but no described subspecies. Sexual dichromism is marked (see Coloration).Habitat depends on location: in Galicia and Asturias it is found in lowlands as well as on mountains, but in Portugal and the interior of the Iberian peninsula it is found only in the mountains at altitudes of 600-1,800m, where it lives along the banks of gullies and streams. Generally it prefers humid places with plenty of bushes: it is somewhat semiarboreal, with many subadults hunting in bushes [Salvador]. Salvador also mentions that in Portugal and Salamanca the lizard's "year" is from March to October. Prey consists of small invertebrates, including spiders. Scalation details: Supraciliaries separated from supraoculars by a row of 2-8 granules. Fairly large trapezoid occipital. Nasal orifice contacts or borders on rostral. There is a small maseterica but no tympanica. Collar: not serrated, 10-14 scales. Throat: 19-27 scales between submaxillaries and centre of collar. Femoral pores: 11-18 on each side. 22-26 lamellae beneath 4th toe. Dorsal scales: oval with slightly raised keel, 47-58 rows at mid-body. Ventral scale rows: 8 longitudinal rows of imbricated scales. Coloration: basically overall green on the body, with brownish tails. Males have a blue throat and strong black coloration on the belly, with a plentiful stippling of black spots all over. Females have fewer but thicker black spots on the back and sides. Juveniles are a darker, almost brownish green, with 3-5 rows of white or yellowish spots ringed with black on each side of the body (not on the dorsum): the belly and tail are yellowish. This pattern may persist in a minority of adult females. Other females may be completely green without any trace of pattern, making them superficially similar to L. viridis [Salvador]. Reproduction: in the breeding season not only the throat but also the head becomes a cobalt blue colour. Females lay 13-21 eggs.

L. steineri

? Lizard

NE Iran


?. B I

L. strigata

Caucasian Green Lizard

S Russia (NE Caucasus), E Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, SW Turkmenistan, NE Turkey, N Iran


Inhabits similar areas to L. schreiberi but can occur higher in the mountains at up to 2,500 m. It has light longitudinal stripes on a greenish background. There are 6 rows of scales on the belly, which is greenish white and unmarked. Diet is mainly larger insects but smaller vertebrates such as lizards may also be taken. In the southern part of its distribution the females lay two egg clutches a year, in May-June and June-July: in some parts a third clutch is laid. Each clutch consists of 6-11 eggs. Incubation is about 60 days (Engelmann et al reckon 100 days in the terrarium): the young measure about 6cm on hatching and take two years to reach sexual maturity. B I

L. trilineata

Balkan Green Lizard

Balkans, Ionian islands, Asia Minor


Second in size to the Eyed Lizard but with a wider distribution: five subspecies (listed) in Europe and nine in Asia. Despite its mountainous range, the Balkan Green Lizard prefers lowlands and is only occasionally found at altitudes up to 1,000 m. It inhabits similar areas to the larger lacertids and has similar hibernation periods and diet, being partial to some sweet fallen fruits. Mating takes place in April, and in May females lay 9-18 eggs and bury them. Some southern females lay a second clutch in June. Sexual maturity takes two years. Males are differentiated by larger heads and a plain green colour, while females have light spots and whitish longitudinal dorsal stripes. Interestingly, young Balkan Green Lizards always have an odd number of stripes (3 or 5) while young Green Lizards always have an even number (2 or 4). The scientic name (trilineata means "three-lined") arose from a three-lined young specimen.

One cause for concern in some areas of the world concerns yet again the impact of feral domestic cats on lizard populations. A report notes that whereas L. t. israelica was able to dwell in equilibrium with the wildcat F. lybrica (which is nocturnal and a low-density species) in some areas of the Middle East, feral domestic cats have virtually exterminated it in some parts. B I

L. t. cariensis


L. t. citrovittata

Tinos Island (Cyclades)

L. t. diplochondrodes


L. t. dobrogica

NW Bulgaria, Rumania

L. t. galatiensis

C Turkey

L. t. hansschweizeri

Milos, Kimolos and Sifnos islands

L. t. israelica

Lebanon, Syria and Israel

L. t. major


L. t. polylepidota

Crete, Kithira

L. t. media

NE Asia Minor, Caucasus, N. Mesopotamia

L. t. trilineata

Balkans exc. Rumania

L. t. wolterstorffi

Lebanon, Syria and Israel

L. viridis
Photo of Lacerta viridis by Hugh Clark, courtesy of Chris Davis. Click on the image to view the full-sized picture.

Green Lizard

All mainland Europe to N. Spain, W. France, R. Dniepr, Turkey, Balkans, Italy and Sicily, Germany, Holland and Poland, SW Ukraine.


Third in size and second in popularity only to the Eyed Lizard, and the largest lizard in C. Europe. There are several subspecies across its wide distribution: northern forms tend to be more uniform in colour, while mildly striped or spotted forms are found in the south. Northernmost limits coincide with vine-growing regions, or in Czechoslovakia, sunny and rocky river valleys, and in S. Europe it has been found at heights of up to 1,800 m. Favourite habitats are pastures and rocky or wooded steppes: although not arboreal, they are excellent climbers and can rush up a tree if threatened. They also like burrows. Like their larger relatives, Green Lizards can take small rodents or birds as well as invertebrates. Green Lizards awake from hibernation in April, when the breeding season begins and lasts until June. Females lay 8-20 eggs six weeks after mating and bury them in pits. The young, 4cm long, hatch in August-September. Interestingly, hibernation takes place earlier for adults than for hatchlings, who can sometimes be seen up to the end of October. Males are distinguished from females by larger heads and blue throats, which are especially bright during the breeding season. Females have a yellowish-green throat. Sexual maturity takes three years. Since the use of chemicals in forestry has adversely affected the Green Lizard, this species is PROTECTED in most of Europe. However, captive-bred specimens are available. B I

L. v. infrapunctata

NE Turkey

L. v. meridionalis

SE Bulgaria, European Turkey

L. v. paphlagonica

N & C Turkey

L. v. viridis

NE Iran

L. vivipara

Viviparous Lizard

Europe as far as 70 deg. N, inc Brit. Isles, and as far east as Sakhalin in Siberia


Hardy and in some ways atypical lacertid, widely distributed across Europe and the most northerly lizard of any family. The Viviparous Lizard is unusual in preferring damp habitats such as peat-bogs, forest clearings, meadows and moors. It will also voluntarily enter water and is a good swimmer. Viviparous lizards are found higher at more southerly latitudes, with an altitude of 3,500 m. having been recorded. Another adaptation to its harsh lifestyle is ovoviviparity: about 12 young (4 cm long) are born in a transparent membrane which they rapidly emerge from. Hibernation varies tremendously according to latitude: in the south it is only three months, but at its northern extreme (above the Arctic Circle) it lasts up to nine months. Sexual differentiation is not as marked as in other lacertids: both sexes are a brown-grey colour with darker longituduinal stripes, but the males are generally larger and have a bright orange, dark-spotted belly. Apart from the usual invertebrates Viviparous Lizards also feed on worms which are common in their damp habitats, and the young also take aphids. Sexual maturity likewise varies according to latitude: three years in S. and C. Europe, but longer further north. B I

L. v. carniolica



L. v. pannonica

E. Slovakia

Possibly descended from individuals washed down from higher altitudes by floods.

L. v. sachalinensis

Sakhalin Islands?


L. v. vivipara



L. yassujica


W Iran (Zagros mountains)


Species only named in 2003: see EMBL database entry. B I

L. zagrosica

Zagros Rock Lizard

W Iran (Zagros mountains, Esfahan Province)


?. B I


Collins Field Guide to Reptiles & Amphibians of Britain & Europe, E N Arnold, J A Burton and D W Ovenden, HarperCollins, London 1978. An invaluable guide, although a few of the taxonomic details are in need of revision.

Lurche und Kriechtiere Europas [Amphibians and Reptiles of Europe], Dr Wolf-Eberhard Engelmann, Jürgen Fritzsche, Dr sc. Rainer Günther and Dipl.Biol. Fritz Jürgen Obst, Ferdinand Enke Verlag, Stuttgart 1986. A German-language equivalent but with a rather wider definition of Europe which includes the Transcaucasus, and useful details on the distribution of subspecies. Now apparently out of print.

Echsen [Lizards] 2, Manfred Rogner, Ulmer, Stuttgart 1994. Does not list all Lacerta species but gives useful details on those selected, including husbandry of captives.

Reptiles and Amphibians of Europe, Walter Hellmich, Blandford Press, London 1962. Taxonomy is rather outdated but useful on details of appearance, habitat and subspecies.

Amphibians and Reptiles of North Africa, W Kästle, H H Schleich and K Kabisch, Koeltz Scientific Books, Germany 1996. Outstanding review of N African herpetofauna giving detailed account of each species.

Guia de campo de los anfibios y reptiles de la peninsula iberica, islas baleares y canarias [Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of the Iberian Peninsula, Balearic and Canary Islands], Alfredo Salvador, Madrid. ISBN: 84-86238-07-2. Excellent book covering all reptiles and amphibians in the aforementioned areas. The one drawback for English speakers is that the text is Spanish. This book is unfortunately now out of print, but well worth purchasing if you can get a second hand copy.

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