Milos wall lizard (Podarcis milensis)

Also known as: Miles wall lizard
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderSquamata
FamilyLacertidae
GenusPodarcis (1)
SizeLength: up to 65 mm (2)

The Milos wall lizard is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

A small, robust reptile of the Mediterranean region, the Milos wall lizard (Podarcis milensis) is endemic to the Aegean Islands of Greece, including the Milos island group from which it takes its name. The male Milos wall lizard has a characteristic blue colour pattern which gives it a rather distinctive appearance, particularly during the breeding season. It is also easily distinguished from other reptiles in that it is the only small member of the Lacertidae family to be found on the islands within its range (2) (3).

Lizards in the Lacertidae family generally have large, symmetrically arranged scales on the head, as well as large eyes with fairly large, round pupils (4). The tongues of lacertid lizards are typically covered in rounded scale-like projections, called ‘papillae’, and a number of folds which are arranged in alternating rows with the papillae (4) (5).

Up to six different subspecies of the Milos wall lizard have been described from different areas of the Milos archipelago and the surrounding islands (6).

The Milos wall lizard is endemic to the Aegean Islands of Greece (1). It is restricted to the Milos archipelago, including the islands of Milos, Kimolos, Polyaigos and Antimilos, as well as the Ananes archipelago, Falkonera Island and Velopoula Island (1) (3) (7).

A ground-dwelling reptile, the Milos wall lizard is found in open areas such as sand dunes, traditionally cultivated land and scrubland. This species is also known to inhabit damp, marshy coastal areas (1) (3).

Like most lacertid lizards of the Mediterranean, the Milos wall lizard is an active, opportunistic forager (8). It feeds mainly on arthropods, such as beetles, ants, insect larvae and spiders. The type of prey taken varies greatly between seasons; for example, in spring, beetles form a major part of the Milos wall lizard’s diet, while ants are favoured in the summer (8) (9).

The Milos wall lizard is active all year round. The breeding season begins in January and continues through to July, although most mating activity occurs in spring. During the breeding season, the male Milos wall lizard is characterised by bright blue-green spots and mating scars (2), probably as a result of territorial fights with other males. The male Milos wall lizard typically maintains a larger territory than the female, and multiple females frequently share the territory of one or more males (10).

Eggs are laid from the middle of March until the end of August, with the female Milos wall lizard producing several small clutches, each containing one to three eggs (1) (2) (3). Eggs laid early in the breeding season typically begin to hatch around mid-April. Juvenile Milos wall lizards are fairly large at hatching, typically measuring between 24 to 31 millimetres (3). Males of this species are known to become sexually mature at around a year old, although most will not reproduce until they are able to establish their own territory in their second year (10).

As in many other lizards, the Milos wall lizard has evolved an effective defence mechanism against predators. If attacked, the Milos wall lizard is able to shed its own tail to facilitate its escape. The tail can continue moving for up to eight minutes after it has been shed, which acts to divert the predator’s attention away from the escaping lizard (11).

The Milos wall lizard occurs on just a few island ds in the Mediterranean, and this restricted range may pose a significant threat to the survival of this species in the future (1). Small island ecosystems are often more vulnerable than mainland ecosystems to a number of general threats, including habitat destruction, pollution and introduction of non-native species (7) (12).

Chance events such as natural disasters and disease are much more likely to affect small populations and cause localised extinctions. In addition, climate change, which is predicted to cause increasing droughts in the already arid Mediterranean region, is set to be an increasingly significant threat to many species in the future (12).

This species was historically threatened by over-collection for the pet trade and private collections, although this is no longer considered to pose a risk to the Milos wall lizard (1).

There are no specific conservation measures in place for the Milos wall lizard, although a number of protected areas are present throughout its range (1). It is included on Annex II of the Bern Convention, which aims to conserve wild flora and fauna and their natural habitats (13).

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  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Adamopoulou, C., Valakos, E.D. and Legakis, A. (1997) Reproduction in the Greek endemic lizard Podarcis milensis (Sauria: Lacertidae). 3rd World Congress of Herpetology, Prague. Available at:
    http://users.uoa.gr/~alegakis/index_en_files/PDFfiles/Prag.pdf
  3. Adamopoulou, C. and Valakos, D. (2000) Small clutch size in a Mediterranean endemic lacertid (Podarcis milensis). Copeia, 2: 610-614.
  4. Ananjeva, N.B., Orlov, N.L., Khalikov, R.G., Darevsky, I.S., Ryabov, L.S. and Barabanov, A.V. (2006) An Atlas of the Reptiles of North Eurasia: Taxonomic Diversity, Distribution, Conservation Status. Pensoft Publishers, Sofia, Bulgaria.
  5. Zug, G.R., Vitt, L.J. and Caldwell, J.P. (2001) Herpetology: An Introductory Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles. Academic Press, London.
  6. Chondropoulos, B.P. (1986) A checklist of the Greek reptiles. I. The lizards. Amphibia-Reptilia, 7(3): 217-235.
  7. Corti, C., Böhme, W., Delfino, M. and Masseti, M. (1999) Man and lacertids on the Mediterranean islands: Conservation perspectives. Natura Croatica, 8(3): 287-300. 
  8. Adamopoulou, C., Valakos, E.D. and Pafilis, P. (1999) Summer diet of Podarcis milensis, P.gaigae and P. erhardii (Sauria: Lacertidae). Bonner Zoologische Beiträge, 48(3-4): 275-282.
  9. Adamopoulou, C. and Legakis, A. (2002) Diet of a lacertid lizard (Podarcis milensis) in an insular dune ecosystem. Israel Journal of Zoology, 48: 207-219.
  10. Adamopoulou, C., Valakos, E.D. and Legakis, A. (2004) Spatial organisation of a population of Podarcis milensis. 5th International Symposium on the Lacertids of the Mediterranean Basin, Lipari, Sicily. Available at:
    http://users.uoa.gr/~alegakis/index_en_files/PDFfiles/SpatOrgPopulPmilensis.pdf
  11. Pafilis, P., Valakos, D. and Foufopoulos, J. (2005) Comparative postautotomy tail activity in six mediterranean lacertid lizard species. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, 78(5): 828-838.
  12. Cuttelod, A., García, N., Abdul Malak, D., Temple, H. and Katariya, V. (2008) The Mediterranean: a biodiversity hotspot under threat. In: Vié, J-C., Hilton-Taylor, C. and Stuart, S.N. (Eds) The 2008 Review of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
  13. Council of Europe: Bern Convention (November, 2011)
    http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/EN/Treaties/Html/104.htm