Carpetane rock lizard (Iberolacerta cyreni)

Also known as: Cyren's rock lizard, Iberian rock lizard, Spanish mountain lizard
GenusIberolacerta (1)
SizeMale head-body length: up to 84 mm (2)
Female head-body length: up to 91 mm (2)
Male tail length: up to137 mm (2)
Female tail length: up to 124 mm (2)
Weight6 – 10 g (2)

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).

The Carpetane rock lizard is a small lizard with an exceptionally long tail almost twice the length of its body! While young lizards and many adult females are brown, adult males and some adult females are brilliant green (3), each stained with an irregular pattern of mottled black blotches, which become denser on the flanks, enclosing paler dots. The stomach is whitish to bluish. Juveniles tend to be brownish-grey with a vibrant metallic blue-green tail (2).

Endemic to the central mountain system of Spain in the Sierra de Bejar, Sierra de Gredos, La Serrota, La Paramera and Sierra del Guadarrama (1).

Associated with rocky habitats from 1,500 to 2,500 metres above sea level, frequently taking refuge in rock cracks and fissures (2).

Due to the cold temperatures in the Carpetane rock lizard’s mountainous habitat, the main period of activity occurs during the warmer months between the end of March or April until the beginning of October. Activity peaks during the mating period, which occurs between the second fortnight of May and first of June in Guadarrama (2). Clutches of three to ten eggs are laid from July to August (1) (2). The size and weight of the clutch typically increase with the size of the female. After an incubation period of 45 to 52 days, young hatch from the second fortnight of August to September. Sexual maturity is reached at 48 millimetres head-body length in males and at 53 millimetres in females (2).

Adult males defend territories, with a high degree of overlap between the ranges of neighbouring males causing frequent antagonistic confrontations. While these adult males mate with the females within their territory, younger subordinate males adopt an alternative strategy in which, without a territory of their own, they try to copulate with females within the territories of other males. Where high densities of males exist, a hierarchy is formed in which the most dominant tend to be the oldest, largest individuals. However, within individuals of similar size it is the relative size of the head, which is used in fights, that determines a male’s position in the hierarchy. Males that have lost their tails to predators avoid participating in confrontations, have a lower status within the dominance hierarchy and generally court fewer females. Likewise, females without tails are less frequently courted (2).

The Carpetane rock lizard is a generalist predator that feeds on insects and their larvae, spiders and other arthropods (2).

Like many other Spanish mountain lizards, this species has a very restricted range that makes it highly vulnerable to habitat degradation and loss (4). The distribution of the Carpetane rock lizard is now severely fragmented and there is an ongoing decline in the extent and quality of its habitat, particularly due to alpine tourism and the construction of ski resorts (5), as well as road construction, all-terrain vehicle use and overgrazing by cattle (1) (4). Additionally, as with all montane species, there is a concern that climate change could pose a serious threat in the future (1) (4).

The Carpetane rock lizard occurs in two protected areas: the Sierra del Guadarrama Natural Park and Sierra de Gredos Natural Park (1).

For more information on the Carpetane rock lizard see:

Authenticated (17/01/2008) by Dr. Luisa Amo, Postdoctoral researcher at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW).

  1. IUCN Red List (December, 2009)