Horvath's rock lizard (Iberolacerta horvathi)

Synonyms: Lacerta horvathi
GenusIberolacerta (1)
SizeSnout-vent length: 5 cm (2)

Horvath's rock lizard is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

Horvath’s rock lizard (Iberolacerta horvathi) belongs to the genus Iberolacerta, a group of small, rock-dwelling lizards (3) (4). Lizards within this genus are generally grey-brown with a pattern of stripes, bands and spots on the back. The sides of the body are sometimes darker, while the underside may be yellow (5) or green (4). The throat of Horvath’s rock lizard is white, distinguishing this species from other Iberolacerta (5).

Female Iberolacerta are usually larger than the males (3) (5), and juveniles can be distinguished from adults by their bright green or blue tail (5). The body and head of most Lacertidae species are flattened to allow the lizards to take refuge in crevices between rocks (5).

The range of Horvath’s rock lizard extends throughout the mountainous regions of southern Austria, western Croatia, southern Germany, north-eastern Italy and western Slovenia (1) (6).

Horvath’s rock lizard is found in mountainous areas at elevations between 200 and 2,000 metres (1), although it is most common between 800 and 1,200 metres (2).

This species typically inhabits areas with exposed rock surfaces, cliffs or scree with sparse vegetation (1) (7). Horvath’s rock lizard will also inhabit open beech (Fagus) and coniferous forest, and may occur above the tree line in alpine scrubland (1).

At lower elevations, Horvath’s rock lizard is found in deep valleys and gorges with ravines (8).

Horvath’s rock lizard hibernates from the end of October until April, or earlier if conditions become favourable, with males usually emerging before females. This species is most active early in the morning or in the late afternoon, and takes shelter in the crevices of rocks during the midday hours when the temperature is too high (2).

The breeding season of Horvath’s rock lizard is synchronised to the short Alpine summer, with mating usually taking place from the end of May to the beginning of June. Egg-laying occurs for one week in mid-July, when clutches of three to five eggs are laid in rocky crevices. The eggs hatch at the end of August or beginning of September. The growth of juvenile Horvath’s rock lizards is fast, and sexual maturity is reached after three years (2). This lizard lives for an average of seven to nine years (2).

Horvath’s rock lizard is an opportunistic predator that catches its prey from within rock crevices. It feeds on a variety of prey types depending on the local food availability, although arthropods typically form the main constituent of its diet (2).

The male Horvath’s rock lizard establishes a territory, which it defends from other males (2).

Horvath’s rock lizard has a very restricted range, and most of its habitat is split up into fragments, making each isolated population extremely vulnerable (1). Human activity may pose a threat to marginal populations in Italy (2). However, more research is needed to assess the impacts of such threats on this species (1). 

Horvath’s rock lizard is listed on Appendix II of the Bern Convention, which aims to conserve wild flora and fauna and their natural habitats in Europe (9). This species is also listed on Annex IV of the EU Habitats Directive which protects over 1,000 animals and 200 habitat types within Europe (10). In a number of its range states, Horvath’s rock lizard is protected by national legislation and some populations occur in protected areas (1). However, more research needs to be done to provide an adequate conservation plan for Horvath’s rock lizard (1). 

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  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)
  2. Lapini, L., Dall’asta, A., Luiselli, L. and Nardi, P. (2004) Lacerto horvathi in Italy: a review with new data on distribution, spacing strategy and territoriality (Reptilia, Lacertidae). Italian Journal of Zoology, 71: 145-151.
  3. Mayer, W. and Arribas, O. (2003) Phylogenetic relationships of the European lacertid genera Archaeolacerta and Iberolacerta and their relationships to some other ‘Archaeolacertae’ (sensu lato) from Near East, derived from mitochondrial DNA sequences. Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research, 41: 157-161.
  4. Arribas, O.J. (1999) Phylogeny and relationships of the mountain lizards of Europe and Near East (Archaeolacerta Mertens, 1921, sensu lato) and their relationships among the Eurasian Lacertid radiation. Russian Journal of Herpetology, 6: 1-22.
  5. Arnold, E.N., Arribas, O. and Carranza, S. (2007) Systematics of the Palaearctic and Oriental lizard tribe Lacertini (Squamata: Lacertidae: Lacertinae), with descriptions of eight new genera. Zootaxa, 1430: 1-86.
  6. The Reptile Database - Iberolacerto horvathi (November, 2011)
  7. Arnold, E.N. (1987) Resource partitioning among Lacertid lizards in southern Europe. Journal of Zoology, 1: 739-782.
  8. Lapini, L., Richard, J., dall’Asta, A. (1993) Distribution and ecology of Lacerta horvathi Melehy, 1904 (Reptilia, Lacertidae) in north-eastern Italy. Gortania-Atti del Museo Fruilano di Storia Naturale, 14: 213-231.
  9. Council of Europe: Bern Convention (November, 2011)
  10. EU Habitats Directive (November, 2011)