Smiles like a reptile!

Bocage's Wall Lizard (Podarcis bocagei)
Bocage’s Wall Lizard (Podarcis bocagei)

Bocage’s Wall Lizard (Podarcis bocagei) is only found in the NW corner of the Iberian Peninsula, including Galicia, Spain. It is a small lizard which is often seen on wooden broad-walks, where it pops up to bask in the sunshine. They quickly disappear beneath the planks when heavy footed humans get near!

Bocage's Wall Lizard (Podarcis bocagei) on a wooden broadwalk
Bocage’s Wall Lizard (Podarcis bocagei) on a wooden broadwalk

The sexes are differently coloured: the mature males have a green upper (dorsal) surface, whilst the females have a brown one, usually! As well as a green back, the males also have brown flanks (as shown below). These little lizards only live for about four years. The males quickly turn green once they have reached sexual maturity, and have only 2-3 years as an adult (1).

Bocage's Wall Lizard, Podarcis bocagei (male)
Bocage’s Wall Lizard, Podarcis bocagei (male)

Many animals, from butterflies to lizards, are faced with conflicting demands in terms of their biology. Whilst they need to remain hidden – inconspicuous and cryptically coloured – to avoid predation, they also need to be bright and conspicuous in order to signal their sexual prowess, or fitness. Males are usually, but not always, the sex which signals their overall genetic fitness in terms of bright colouration and showy displays. The females choose who they want to mate with, based on these colours or displays.

I took this photo (top and below) of a nice bright green male Bocage’s Wall Lizard (Podarcis bocagei) in May, this year. The breeding season runs from April to July. He let me get quite close; I guess he didn’t want to move out of this warm, sunny spot unless he had to!

Bocage's Wall Lizard (Podarcis bocagei)
Bocage’s Wall Lizard (Podarcis bocagei)

Breeding males also turn a bright yellow colour on their under (ventral) sides, during the reproductive period. Unfortunately, I was not quick enough to catch this one and turn it over! It is difficult enough to get sufficiently close to get a good photograph.

Somewhat confusingly, a small proportion (less than 10%) of female lizards of this species turn green after mating, particularly in coastal areas (2). I blogged about this phenomenon previously (3). So it’s possible he is a she! And it does look quite fat, as though it was gravid (pregnant). Some things we will never know!

Photographs taken near Morouzos beach, Ortigueira, Galicia, Spain.

  1. Galán, P. (2008). Ontogenetic and sexual variation in the coloration of the lacertid lizards Iberolacerta monticola and Podarcis bocagei. Do the females prefer the greener males?. Animal Biology, 58(2), 173-198.
  2. Galán, P. (2000). Females that imitate males: dorsal coloration varies with reproductive stage in female Podarcis bocagei (Lacertidae). Copeia, 2000(3), 819-825.
  3. https://rcannon992.com/2014/03/22/bocages-wall-lizards-turn-green-when-mated/

One thought on “Smiles like a reptile!

  1. Pingback: Smiles like a reptile! | Ray Cannon's nature notes

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