Tuesday 4 November 2008

Troodos Lizard

Troodos lizard
Phoenicolacerta troodica (Werner, 1936)
Lacertidae; Squamata; Sauropsida; Chordata
Bellapais Abbey, near Kyrenia, North Cyprus
October 2008

Like the Cyprus pied wheatear featured not long ago, the Troodos lizard is an endemic species to Cyprus. It was formerly considered (and still is, by some herpetologists) to be merely a subspecies of the Lebanon lizard (P. laevis). The genus Phoenicolacerta was only recently (2007) separated from the now-divorced Lacerta, which used to contain the common lizard amongst other European species. 

I am not sure whether the pictured animals are males or females, but there does appear to be a difference between the red-backed forms and those with red on their sides. In the breeding season, it is easier to tell the sexes apart, as the males turn green with blue heads, while the females are duller.

P. troodica is also the smallest of the four types of lizard I saw on the island, the only other one of comparable size I saw was the ubiquitous Schreiber’s fringe-toed lizard (Acanthodactylus schreiberi) which will get its own feature here shortly! The agama (Laudakia stellio) is usually larger, although the juveniles were commonly the same size as P. troodica and A. schreiberi, but are very different looking, with toad-like heads and diamond patterns on the back. I don’t think anybody could confuse any of these lizards with the chameleon though!

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