Common Wall Lizards Basking in Basque Country

Across a gently flowing stream high in the forested mountains of the Basque Country, Spain, I spotted two basking common European wall lizards (Podarcis muralis).

Without hesitation (like any good ecologist) I waded across the water to inspect. These two lizards (photographed at some distance with a 600mm telephoto lens) looked a lot like the non-native lizard found in pockets of my home country, England. I had never actually come across this species in my working life, but I knew it from basic ID charts of reptiles found in the UK (which you can download for free here). Pete Hillman, a fellow nature photographer and blogger, however, has seen one, and has shared his encounter along with some beautiful images which you can view here.

This species has also established populations in North America. Here, however, in mainland Europe, these guys are very much a native organism and are doing well. They are also considered native to some of the Channel Islands, UK.

In the above image, the male is above and the female is below. Some individuals flaunt a more green, scaly costume, but the individuals we found have a less conspicuous colouration. There is variation among individuals with some having a greater greeny tinge, and all have varying patterns of dark spots and flecks.

Below is an image taken of a juvenile that we spotted later that day followed by some close ups of the male. He was cooperative enough that he posed for a few seconds on Emma’s floral dress before scarpering.

Podarcis muralis [EUROPEAN WALL LIZARD] Goizueta, Basque Country 28.07.2017

Having worked a lot with the viviparous lizard (Zootoca vivipara), a native to the UK and much of Eurasia, it was interesting to compare the two. Our male wall lizard was considerably larger than the average viviparous lizard. In fact, as a rule, wall lizards are larger reaching 20cm, of which two thirds of this length is the tail. Behaviourally, wall lizards (as the name suggests) are adapted for utilising rocky vertical faces, which is not necessarily what viviparous lizards are known or adapted for. Wall lizards have larger heads and longer limbs than the viviparous lizard also.

The first introduction of the wall lizard to the UK is thought to have been a deliberate release to Ventnor in the 1920s, with more later to mainland. As of September 2012, 31 viable populations were listed with an additional 9 unverified.

Podarcis muralis [EUROPEAN WALL LIZARD] Goizueta, Basque Country 28.07.2017 #5

A British news outlet published a small article on the European wall lizard and listed a few location in which they can be found in Britain if you wanted to go on the search. These included ‘as far north as Sheffield, although the majority are in the south, particularly along the cliffs of Dorset, and at Ventnor on the Isle of Wight. There is also a large area of Surrey from Epsom down to Horsham, on both sides of the M25, where the lizard is frequently observed.’

Podarcis muralis [EUROPEAN WALL LIZARD] Goizueta, Basque Country 28.07.2017 #2

References and Further Reading

ARGUK – Reptile ID Guide – https://www.arguk.org/info-advice/id-guides/241-reptile-id-guide-2016-compressed/file
(Retrieved 12 August, 2017)

Froglife – Wall Lizard – http://www.froglife.org/info-advice/amphibians-and-reptiles/wall-lizard/
(Retrieved 12 August, 2017)

Pete Hillman’s Nature Photography Blog – Wall Lizard – https://petehillmansnaturephotography.wordpress.com/2016/08/06/wall-lizard/
(Retrieved 12 August, 2017)

The Guardian – Species Watch: Wall Lizard – https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/oct/04/specieswatch-wall-lizard
(Retrieved 12 August, 2017)

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Pete Hillman says:

    Superb images and info!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Pete 😃🌿

      Like

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