Found in only one tiny area in Spain, the Peña de Francia rock lizard is probably one of the most threatened vertebrates in Europe (3). Belonging to the Lacertidae family, sometimes called the true lizards, the Peña de Francia rock lizard has a robust, flattened body with long limbs, long toes (4), and a tail which is about twice as long as the snout-vent length(2). The back of the Peña de Francia rock lizard is generally brown patterned with stripes and bands (5)(6), and blue ocelli (eye-like markings) on the shoulder region distinguish this rock lizard from similar species (6). Adult females are larger than adult males, while juveniles can be recognised by their bright green or blue tail (5).
While information about the breeding biology of this species is lacking, it is likely to be similar to that of other Iberolacerta species. In other species of Iberolacerta, males bite the flanks of females during copulation, and the females lay clutches of three to ten eggs, which hatch after 23 to 36 days (5).
The Peña de Francia rock lizard is currently known from an area of only 12 to 15 square kilometres situated in the Province of Salamanca, central-eastern Spain, making it one of the lizards with the smallest distributions in the world. It occurs on the Peña de Francia Mountain and at several close localities, between 840 and 1,730 metres above sea level (3).
The Peña de Francia lizard inhabits rocky areas at high altitudes, within temperate forest dominated by oak species (3). Its distribution lies within an area that has a Mediterranean climate, reaching very high temperatures in the summer (3).
The tiny distribution of the Peña de Francia lizard and its accordingly small population makes it intrinsically vulnerable to any threats. These threats currently come in the form of ever-increasing tourist pressure, the construction of roads and the use of all-terrrain vehicles (1)(3). The collection of specimens may also be contributing to the decline in lizard numbers which has been observed over the last three decades. In addition, it is thought that the Peña de Francia rock lizard may be very sensitive to any changes to the climate in its habitat and thus could be affected in the future by global climate change (1)(3).
The entire range of the Peña de Francia rock lizard lies within the ‘Parque Natural de las Batuecas y Sierra de Francia’, a protected natural area (3), but this clearly does not protect it from all threats, such as increasing tourism, and thus a specific management plan for the recovery of this species is required (1). It has been suggested that captive breeding should be one of the actions included in the recovery strategy (1).
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