Aurelio’s rock lizard (Iberolacerta aurelioi)
|Size||Snout-vent length: up to 6 cm (2)|
Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).
This small lizard, from the harsh, rocky environment of the Pyrenees, has grey-brown skin on its back, generally patterned with rows of dark spots. Dark bands along the flanks are made more distinct by the bordering pale stripes, and the underside is often yellow (2).
Occurs in the Pyrenees Mountains, around the area where France, Spain and north-western Andorra meet. Aurelio’s rock lizard’s range encompasses the massifs of Pica d’Estats, Montroig, Coma Pedrosa and Triataina (2).
Aurelio’s rock lizard occurs in rocky alpine habitats, generally in south-facing glaciated valleys at elevations of 2,000 to 3,000 metres (2).
During the harsh, cold winter months, when snow blankets much of the Pyrenees, Aurelio’s rock lizard hibernates, and so it is active for just four months of the year, from mid-May to late September or the beginning of October. This leaves little time for the lizard to reproduce, and as a result only one clutch of eggs is produced each year. An average of two to three eggs are laid and incubated for a period of 30 to 36 days. The young Aurelio’s rock lizards develop slowly, and sexual maturity is reached relatively late, at the age of four years in males and between four and five years in females (3).
Like the closely related Pyrenean rock lizard, (Iberolacerta bonnali), Aurelio’s rock lizard may reduce its activity in the middle of the day during its active months, perhaps to avoid the strong ultraviolet radiation that is present at such high altitudes (2)
The rocky alpine habitat of Aurelio’s rock lizard is currently threatened by overgrazing by cattle, and may face further pressure in the future from the development of ski resorts and the associated building of roads and tracks (1). The IUCN, who assessed the conservation status of this lizard, also state the possible development of hydroelectric projects and mining as a future threat to this species (1). The low reproductive potential of Aurelio’s rock lizard and its restricted distribution only act to enhance the devastating effects that such threats may have on the population (3).
Aurelio’s rock lizard is listed on Appendix III of the Bern Convention, a convention which aims to conserve wild flora and fauna and their natural habitats and to promote European co-operation in that field (4). Wild animal species on Appendix III are protected, but can be exploited if regulated in accordance with the convention (4). It is yet to be seen whether this level of protection is sufficient to ensure the survival of this Endangered reptile.
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- Hibernates: hibernation is a winter survival strategy in which the animal passes the winter in a resting state. This period of inactivity is characterised by specific biological and biochemical changes including lowered blood pressure and respiration rate. In reptiles, this is also known as brumation.
IUCN Red List (March, 2008)
- Arnold, N. and Ovenden, D. (2002) A Field Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Britain and Europe. HarperCollins Publishers, London.
- Arribas, O.J. and Galán, P. (2005) Reproductive characteristics of the Pyrenean high-mountain lizards: Iberolacerta aranica (Arribas, 1993), I. aurelioi (Arribas, 1994) and I. bonnali (Lantz, 1927). Animal Biology, 55(2): 163 - 190.
Council of Europe: Bern Convention (March, 2008)