Tenerife speckled lizard (Gallotia intermedia)

Spanish: Lagarto Canario Moteado
GenusGallotia (1)
SizeSnout-vent length: up to 15 cm (2)
Tail length: 28.3 cm (2)

The Tenerife speckled lizard is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1).

An extremely rare species, the Tenerife speckled lizard (Gallotia intermedia) was only discovered in 1996 (1). It belongs to the genus Gallotia, the members of which are found only on the Canary Islands (3).

The adult Tenerife speckled lizard is blackish-brown with a network of either distinctive yellow spots or pale grey lines on its back (2). Some individuals also have two rows of eye-like spots, one blue row and one yellow, running along the side of the body between the front and hind limbs. The tail of the Tenerife speckled lizard is a uniform grey-brown with some irregular black blotches. The underside of the body is greyish-yellow and the throat is grey. The Tenerife speckled lizard has an orange eye with a black pupil (2).

The female Tenerife speckled lizard differs from the male in being slightly smaller, and having a line of seven blue, eye-like spots along its back. The juvenile of this species is brownish-grey, with more distinct pale yellow spots (2).

The Tenerife speckled lizard is endemic to the island of Tenerife, where it is known to occur only along the extreme west coastline and at Montana de Guaza in the extreme south (1).

The preferred habitat of the Tenerife speckled lizard is rocky, rugged terrain, often with sparse vegetation cover. However, it is believed that this species may have occupied a greater variety of habitats in the past (1).

The Tenerife speckled lizard is generally believed to feed mainly on plant material (1). Other species in the Laceritidae family, or ‘true lizards’, are known to mainly forage for food on the ground, in low shrubs or at the base of trees (4) (5).

Although there is little available information on the reproductive biology of the Tenerife speckled lizard, it known to be an egg-laying species (1). In females of the Laceritidae family, the number of eggs laid is thought to be related to body size (5).

The Tenerife speckled lizard has an extremely restricted range, with just 40 isolated populations occurring along a 9 kilometre stretch of the west coast of Tenerife, and one further population in the south. The population of this species is thought to total no more than 600 individuals, and is at risk from the effects of inbreeding (1).

One of the main threats to the Tenerife speckled lizard is predation by feral cats. To a lesser extent, this species is also susceptible to predation by rats (1).

The most important conservation measure for the Tenerife speckled lizard is the control of feral cat populations. Measures so far have included the use of fencing to exclude feral cats from the known habitat of the Tenerife speckled lizard (1). Future control measures of feral cat populations need to take into account the potential for inadvertently casing rat numbers to increase through the removal of their main predator (6).

Although the Tenerife speckled lizard species is known to occur in at least one protected area, further surveys are urgently needed to locate isolated populations in inaccessible areas (1).

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  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2011)
  2. Hernández, E., Nogales, M. and Martín, A. (2000) Discovery of a new lizard in the Canary Islands, with a multivariate analysis of Gallotia (Reptilia: Lacertidae). Herpetologica, 56(1): 63-76.
  3. Martin, J.E. and Roca, V. (2004) Helminth infracommunities of a population of the Gran Canaria giant lizard Gallotia stehlini. Journal of Helminthology, 78: 319-322.
  4. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Zug, G.R., Vitt, L.J. and Caldwell, J.P. (2001) Herpetology: An Introductory Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles. Academic Press, San Diego and London.
  6. Medina, F. and Nogales, M. (2009) A review on the impacts of feral cats (Felis silvestris catus) in the Canary Islands: implications for the conservation of its endangered fauna. Biodiversity Conservation, 18: 829-846.