Iberian rock lizard (Iberolacerta monticola)

Synonyms: Archaeolocerta monticola, Lacerta monticola
Spanish: Lagartija Serrana
GenusIberolacerta (1)
SizeSnout-vent length: 8 cm (2)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).

Belonging to the Lacertidae family, sometimes called the true lizards, the Iberian rock lizard has a robust, flattened body with long limbs, long toes (3), and a tail which is about twice as long as the snout-vent length (2). Male and female Iberian rock lizards differ markedly in their appearance (4); females have brown upperparts and pale green bellies (4), while males may be either bright green or dull brown, with the bright green males tending to be both larger and older (5). Some older males may also have some blue spots on the edges of the scales at the sides of the abdomen (4).

The Iberian rock lizard occurs in Spain and Portugal, where two subspecies are currently recognized. Iberolacerta monticola monticola is restricted to the Serra da Estrela of Portugal, while Iberolacerta monticola cantabrica is distributed across a much wider area in northwest Spain including the Cantabrian Mountains and Galicia (6) (7).

In most areas, the Iberian rock lizard inhabits rocky, damp, mountainous habitat, where it occurs close to the tree-line in areas of scrub and boulders, at altitudes up to 2,000 metres (1). However, the Iberian rock lizard is not exclusively a mountain-dwelling species as it also occurs at sea level in Galicia, in coastal lowland forest, sometimes close to streams (1).

Iberian rock lizards are only active between late February and October, spending the cooler winter months hibernating. During this short period of activity, the lizards must find a mate and breed. The exact period of mating activity varies between populations, with those inhabiting the harsh, mountainous environment breeding much later than those living in the milder climate of the coastal areas. In the mountains, time is even more limited and males tend to commence mating as soon as females become active after the winter (4). Aggressive encounters are often observed between males at this time, as they attempt to claim a mate, particularly between the larger, older green males (5).

Female Iberian rock lizards lay one to two clutches of eggs each year, although only the largest females seem able to lay two clutches. The clutches, consisting of four to nine eggs, begin hatching in August, and hatching continues until the end of October (4). Female Iberian rock lizards become sexually mature at an age of around two or three years, at which point females measure between 52.4 and 56.0 millimetres and males are between 50.7 and 51.8 millimetres in length (4).

Some populations of the Iberian rock lizard are believed to be declining which, in combination with its small and highly fragmented distribution, has led to this species being considered Vulnerable to extinction. The main threat causing this fall in numbers is habitat loss; a result of fires, conversion of land to agriculture and forestry, and development for tourism (1).

The Iberian rock lizard occurs in the Serra da Estrela Natural Park, Portugal and in a number of protected areas in the Cantabrian Mountains, Spain (1), and it also receives protection through its listing on Annex II of the Bern Convention (1) (8). In addition, an action plan for this species is being developed in Portugal (1).

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (July, 2014)