Viviparous Lizards

A year ago I didn’t know that there were lizards in England. Then we started finding them in the meadows and I wanted to know more. This is what I’ve discovered so far:

The Viviparous Lizard, Zootoca vivipara, is the most northerly of lizards and its range extends to north of the Arctic Circle. They give birth to live young (thats the viviparous bit) which is really unusual for a reptile and must be something to do with the northerliness because in the southernmost bits of their range they actually lay eggs as you might expect reptiles to do.

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A lizard we found while cutting the meadows last September

They have got very variable colour and patterning but females tend to have dark stripes on their flanks and down the middle of their backs. This would make the lizard above a male then. The males have brightly coloured undersides – yellow, orange or, more rarely, red while the females have paler, whitish underparts.

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A male lizard with a coloured underside.

They feed on invertebrates – mainly small insects. Mate in April/May and the offspring develop inside the female for three months and she gives birth to 3-10 young in July, one every few days. The young are blackish, and we have been finding a lot of small very dark lizards under our reptile sampling squares that we have laid out around the place:

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The arrival of 10 reptile sampling squares – they seem just like bits of roof felt, actually.

These sampling squares have actually been great – we routinely get lizards under a couple of them and have also found voles and, less excitingly, a vast number of snails.

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Adult and juvenile lizard under one of the sampling squares

Males reach sexual maturity after about 2 years and females after three with both having a lifespan of about 5-6 years.

So thats very interesting and probably all I need to know about them for now. We will continue to turn the squares over as we go round the meadows and see whats going on – maybe one day we will see a slow worm or a snake as well.

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