I came across this lizard enjoying the late afternoon sunshine at the back of the Mirador da Miranda viewing point, which is a stone balcony overlooking the Ria Ortigueira and surrounding countryside in Galicia, Spain. The lookout point must be about 500m in altitude and overlooks the Ria (or inlet) (see below).
Iberian mountain lizards (L. (I.)monticola) have a fragmented distribution, with two subspecies, separately located in 1) the Serra da Estrela mountains of Central Portugal [I. monticola monticola] and 2) NW Spain [I. m. cantabrica] (1, 2). The subspecies shown here – Iberolacerta monticola cantabrica to give it its full name – occurs in a continuous distribution from Galicia in the west, all the way along the Cantabrian Mountain Range to the Picos de Europa, in the east. This lizard like mountains, and is mostly found in rocky places between 700 and 1,000m above sea level; but in Galicia for some reason, it occurs down to sea level.
The two subspecies probably became separated from each other – and evolved differences – during past ice ages, when they occupied so-called glacial refugia (3). The Iberian Mountain lizard is defined as ‘‘vulnerable’’ in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, because its limited distribution is severely fragmented, and the quality and extent of its existing habitat is continuing to decline (3). So it was nice to see this plump female warming herself in the sun, perhaps getting ready to lay a clutch of eggs? It’s a shame I did not see the male, which is an attractive bright green colour, with black spots.
1. Arribas, Oscar, Salvador Carranza, and Gaetano Odierna. “Description of a new endemic species of mountain lizard from Northwestern Spain: Iberolacerta galani sp. nov.(Squamata: Lacertidae).” Zootaxa 1240 (2006): 1-55.
2, Almeida, A. P., et al. Genetic differentiation of populations of Iberian rock‐lizards Iberolacerta (Iberolacerta) sensuArribas (1999). Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research 40.2 (2002): 57-64.
3. Remón, Nuria, et al. “Causes and evolutionary consequences of population subdivision of an Iberian mountain lizard, Iberolacerta monticola.” PloS one 8.6 (2013): e66034.
I am an entomologist with a background in quarantine pests and invasive invertebrates. I studied zoology at Imperial College (University of London) and did a PhD on the population dynamics of a cereal aphid (Metopolophium dirhodum) in the UK. I spent 5 years with the British Antarctic Survey studing cold hardiness of Antarctic invertebates and 17 years with the Food and Environment Research Agency. My main interests now are natural history, photography, painting and bird watching.