European Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis)


Description

Adult Green Lizards can reach a snout-vent length of 13 cm (total length of around 30 cm with their tail). It is quite a large lizard, with the males having a short, deep head (1). Males are almost uniformly green, with a fine black stippling on their dorsal surface, whilst the females can exhibit a variety of colour morphs, such as uniformly brown or green, or with blotches (1) (2). Females often have two or four slender light stripes on their body, which may be edged with dark spots or lines. The belly in both sexes is a yellow colour (1). The throat is blue in males, especially the chin and along the sides, whilst this is rare occurrence in mature females (2). Juvenile Lacerta viridis can have a beige colouration, some light spots or uniform pattern (2).

This lizard is often regarded as two separate species; the Green Lizard Proper (Lacerta viridis), which is found in the east, and the Western Green lizard (Lacerta bilineata). The Western Green Lizard has fewer dorsal scales, and the rostral scale reaches the nostril. Each of these species has five sub-species associated with them, all of which occur throughout Europe (3).

It is similar in appearance to all members of the green lizard group, especially the Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata) and Schreiber’s Green Lizard (Lacerta schreiberi) (1).

Habitat

It is usually found in dense vegetation, such as woodland and field edges, which have good sun exposure. In the south it is found in damp areas or highlands, whilst in the north of its range it can be found in heath land, as long as there is enough vegetation cover (1). It can be found up to 2200 m above sea level.

Life Cycle

Typically, the female lays six to 23 eggs in a clutch, which will take around seven to 15 weeks to hatch. Hatchlings have a snout-vent length of three to four centimeters, and a brown colouration (1) (2). The Green Lizard will become sexually mature in its second year (1).

Distribution

Lacerta viridis covers much of the southern half of Europe, including Spain, Sicily and north and central Greece. Extends northwards to France, south and west Switzerland, Austria, the Channel Islands and parts of the Czech Republic, Slovakia and southern Ukraine. There are a few isolated populations in east Germany and the Rhine valley. Present on a few Mediterranean islands, such as Corfu, Thasos and Skiathos (1).

Behaviour

The Green Lizard is a diurnal species, often basking in the mornings and evenings. It usually hunts in dense vegetation, and can climb well (1).  It will shelter itself amongst bushes and rock crevices. Where it occurs, it can be found in high densities, up to 200 per hectare (1).

Feeding

The diet of the green lizard mainly consists of invertebrates, and will occasionally eat fruit, eggs and nestlings of birds, as well as the odd small lizard (1) (2).

Conservation status

It is listed as being of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, although populations are tending to decrease in numbers (4).

Listed under Appendix II of BERN Convention (5).

References

Description written by Sheridan Willis (2009)

(1)   Arnold, E.N., 2004. A field guide to the reptiles and amphibians of Britain and Europe. 2nd ed. London: Harper Collins Publishers.

(2)   Trek Nature 2008. Lacerta viridis (Green Lizard) in: <http://www.treknature.com/gallery/photo158438.htm> Downloaded on 02 July 2009

(3)   Lacerta viridis in: The Reptile Database 2009. J. Craig Venter Institute <http://www.jcvi.org/reptiles/species.php?genus=Lacerta&species=bilineata>

(4)   Lacerta viridis in: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.1 <www.iucnredlist.org> Downloaded on 02 July 2009

(5)   Europe, C.o., 2002. Convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats: Bern Convention. [Online] Available at: http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/FR/Treaties/Html/104-2.htm [Accessed 23 July 2009]

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