Schreiber’s green lizard (Lacerta schreiberi)

Also known as: Iberian emerald lizard
  
Spanish: Lagarto Verdinegro
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderSquamata
FamilyLacertidae
GenusLacerta (1)
SizeLength: c.12 cm (2)

Schreiber’s green lizard is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

A striking reptile, the male Schreiber’s green lizard (Lacerta schreiberi) is known for its vivid colouration. The back is characteristically green with black spots and the head and neck are bright blue. The underside of the male is yellow with black spotting (2). The female, dull in comparison, is brown-green with a smaller light brown head and extensive black spots (2) (3). The juvenile Schreiber’s green lizard is similar in appearance to the adult female, but with lighter brown sides (4).

Both the male and female Schreiber’s green lizard have a long, thin tail which measures up to twice the length of the body (2).

Schreiber’s green lizard is endemic to the north-western mountainous regions of Spain and Portugal, with other isolated populations occurring in coastal areas (1) (2) (5) (6).

Schreiber’s green lizard inhabits areas of open, rocky shrubland, as well as woodland edges and mountain river valleys. It also occurs along river banks and close to fences in pastures, tending to favour areas with high humidity and south-facing slopes. Compared with other Iberian lizards, Schreiber’s green lizard prefers areas with high precipitation and fewer hours of sunlight. It can be found up to elevations of 2,100 metres above sea level (1) (2) (5) (6) (7).

In the north-western parts of its range, Schreiber’s green lizard inhabits areas of deciduous, mixed and pine woodland, where its distribution is less restricted than southern and central mountain-dwelling populations, which are heavily reliant on the streams within the habitat (1) (6).

The diet of Schreiber’s green lizard consists of insects, reptiles, young birds and fruit. As a diurnal species, it is only active to search for food during the day. Schreiber’s green lizard, as with other members of the Lacertid family, is specially adapted to catch its prey, with a flattened body which enables it to search small crevices in rocks. Using its long well developed limbs for locomotion, it can also run away from predators and hide (2) (3) (8) (9).

Schreiber’s green lizard is active from March to September, with mating occurring in April or May (3). A single clutch of between 11 and 18 eggs (1) is laid during June (2).

The male Schreiber’s green lizard does not defend a territory, but confrontation between males is not uncommon. Males will often maintain physical contact with the female to prevent a rival from mating. The male may also give a threat display to other males, in which the head is tilted and the side of the body is presented to the opposing male, making it look bigger and showing the extent of its colouration (3). Like other members of the Lacertid family, Schreiber’s green lizard also has femoral pores on the underside of its legs, which may be used to chemically communicate with rivals and potential mates (3) (8).

The dominant male Schreiber’s green lizard will mate with the most females; however, it does not get exclusive access. The female may occasionally flee and hide from the dominant male, enabling it to mate with another male (3).

Schreiber’s green lizard is under threat due to deforestation, forest fires and destruction of its habitat. This species is dependent on the humidity of its habitat, which is likely to alter as a result of climate change (1) (10).

Schreiber’s green lizard is listed on Annex II of the Bern Convention which aims to protect wild species and their habitats in Europe (11). It occurs in several protected areas, and an EU-Life project for this species has been implemented in Portugal (1) (12).

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  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Gibson, C. (2010) Wild Animals. Dorling Kindersley Ltd., London.
  3. Martín, J. and López, P. (2009) Multiple color signals may reveal multiple messages in male Schreiber's green lizards, Lacerta schreiberi. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology, 63: 1743–1755.
  4. Gans, C. and Crews, D. (1992) Biology of the Reptilia: Physiology E: Hormones, Brain and Behaviour. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  5. Weiss, S. and Ferrand, N. (2007) Phylogeography of Southern European Refugia: Evolutionary Perspectives on the Origins and Conservation of European Biodiversity. Springer, Dordrecht.
  6. Paulo, O.S., Dias, C., Bruford, M.W., Jordan, W.C. and Nichols, R.A. (2001) The Persistence of Pliocene Populations Through the Pleistocene Climatic Cycles: Evidence From the Phylogeography of an Iberian lizard. Royal Society of London, London.
  7. Zachos, F.E. and Habel, J.C. (2011) Biodiversity Hotspots: Distribution and Protection of Conservation Priority Areas. Springer-Verlag, Berlin.
  8. Halliday, T. and Alder, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  9. Pianka, E.R. and Vitt, L.J. (2006) Lizards: Windows to the Evolution of Diversity. University of California Press, California.
  10. Council of Europe (2010) Biodiversity and Climate Change: Reports and Guidance Developed Under the Bern Convention. Council of Europe, Strasbourg.
  11. Council of Europe: Bern Convention (October, 2011)
    http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/EN/Treaties/Html/104.htm
  12. European Commission: LIFE and Europe’s reptiles and amphibians (October, 2011)
    http://ec.europa.eu/environment/life/publications/lifepublications/lifefocus/documents/reptiles_amphibians.pdf