1 May 2012

Froglife’s Dragon of the Month: Common Lizard

To celebrate the Chinese Year of the Dragon, every month in 2012 we are featuring a different pin up from the amphibian and reptile world. May’s animal is the super speedy Common lizard. Froglife’s Conservation Youth Worker Rebecca Neal has been finding out more....

“The most exciting thing about lizards is that they can lose and then regrow their tail. This absolutely blows me away! If they feel threatened, they can quickly shed their tail, do a runner and leave it to twitch for a bit to distract the predator. How brilliantly gruesome!

The Common lizard I think is particularly cool, mostly because it’s the easiest of our native reptiles to see. It is found all over and in lots of different habitats (south facing banks, heathland, hedges, sea cliffs, drystone walls …) anywhere where there are open sunny areas and places to hide, including gardens. They eat a variety of invertebrates including worms, slugs, insects and spiders.

I know a really good place to spot lizards if you’ve never seen one; Lattersley Local Nature Reserve in Whittlesey managed by The Wildlife Trust. The lizards particularly like the boardwalk which crosses the wetter bits near the reed bed.

If you are local to Peterborough, you could come on a Froglife guided walk (see the list of events on our website) as we quite often see them on Hampton Nature Reserve. I also see them regularly around Slapton Bridge on the awesome Slapton Ley National Nature Reserve in Devon.

Why not share your favourite Common lizard spotting spot on our Facebook page?

A Common lizard basking
Dragon Fact File: Common Lizard
(Zootoca vivipara)

Dragon Facts:
·   Common lizards have a really interesting lifecycle. They are generally referred to as viviparous, meaning that the females gives birth to live young
·   The young actually develop in soft eggs inside the bodies of the female, which break when she gives birth
·   In different countries Common lizards can lay eggs
·   Baby Common lizards are tiny and are very dark in colour
·   You are most likely to spot lizards basking in the sun on warm days
A Common lizard eating a Wolf spider
·   Common lizards grow up to 15cm long and are usually brown with darker spots and stripes although this colour is variable.
·   Males and females can be told apart from their bellies; males have yellow/orange undersides with black spots. Female’s bellies are pale with no spots.
·   The good thing about spotting Common lizards is the fact that you can’t confuse them with much; the native Sand lizard is very rare and only found in restricted sand dune sites and the only other lizard found in the UK is the Slow-worm which is legless.
·   You may get it mixed up with a newt which, of course, can be found on land. The rule is: if it’s fast, it’s a lizard. Newts have a smooth or warty-looking skin rather than scales and, if you get close enough, only 4 toes rather than 5 on the front legs.
A female Common lizard

Photos: Rob Williams