Sunday, 17 May 2009

Quartet of Cypriot Lizards

Despite hours of searching in the favourite haunts of snakes, I saw not one serpent in my sixteen days in Cyprus. Lizards were a-plenty, however, but making up four species:

Laudakia stellio cypriaca (Daan, 1967)
Agamidae; Squamata; Sauropsida; Chordata

adult, at Alagadi (N35°19.923 E33°28.692), April 2009

adult, at Bellapais Abbey (N35°18.393 E33°21.359), April 2009

juvenile, at Bellapais Abbey, October 2008

Looking somewhat like a bearded dragon (Pogona spp.), a popular pet, the (starred) agama is found in some Greek Islands of the Aegean Sea, Cyprus, Turkey, northern Egypt and the Near East as far as Iraq. They are the largest lizards to be found on Cyprus, the individual in the first photo was fully grown, at over 30 cm in length. Males and females are hard to tell apart, but juveniles are more distinctly patterned compared to the adults.

Schreiber’s fringe-toed lizard
Acanthodactylus schreiberi schreiberi (Boulenger, 1878)
Lacertidae; Squamata; Sauropsida; Chordata

adult, at Gönyeli (N35°14.069 E33°18.101), April 2009

juvenile, at Alagadi, April 2009

Fringe-toed lizards are a group of sand-loving reptiles from parts of Europe and north Africa; the fringe that gives them their vernacular name evidently helps them scuttle on hot, loose sands. I observed this species in a few sandy locations such as Turtle Beach at Alagadi, and sand dunes near the lake at Gönyeli. Juveniles are easy to identify, as among the Cypriot lizards, only they can be as brightly-marked, with longitudinal black and white stripes, and even a red tail. The red coloration and stripes fade and turn to spots as the lizard matures, as can be seen in the first photo. The species is not endemic to Cyprus, but is also found in Turkey and the Near East.

Troodos lizard
Phoenicolacerta troodica (Werner, 1936)
Lacertidae; Squamata; Sauropsida; Chordata

adult female, at Bellapais Abbey, possibly gravid with eggs

adult male, at Kyrenia, (N35°20.570 E33°15.251)

adult male and female, at Kyrenia

Since blogging about this species the last time I went to Cyprus, I have seen many more individuals of the endemic Troodos lizard in many more locations than I had previously. Note the beautifully coloured male with his blue flank spots, and the red-backed female who definitely looks gravid/pregnant (or should that be eggnant?)

Snake-eyed lizard
Ophisops elegans elegans Ménétries, 1832
Lacertidae; Squamata; Sauropsida; Chordata
Geçitköy (N35°20 E33°04)
April 2009

It wasn’t until I arrived back home that I realised that I had seen several individuals of this species, as I thought they were Acanthodactylus schreiberi. They can be told by their rather snake-like face and heavily-keeled scales. This individual was posing nicely on a rock by the side of the road as we approached the reservoir, more on which to follow in a later post.


Ed said...

Thanks for this blog, it put some names to the lizards I saw in Cyprus at the start of June. The little Schreiber’s fringe-toed lizards are really pretty but also really really fast, I struggled to get near one! The only evidence of a snake that I saw was a shed skin at the Temple Of Apollo, I was hoping for a Montpellier or a viper. I really wanted to see a chameleon and a turtle but no luck, at least the lizards are plentiful!

Anonymous said...

Is the european glass lizard - pseodopus apodus the worlds largest legless lizard found in Cyprus. It's abundant on mainland Greece.

Mo Hassan said...

As far as I know the glass lizard does not occur on Cyprus.