Reptiles of Andalusia

Biodiversity hot spot in Europe: turtles, chameleons, worm lizards, geckos, lizards, skinks and snakes.

13 lizards tricky to identify

9 harmless snakes

12 spectacular other species

Ibero-Maghreb and Mediterranean species

Variety of forms and great abundance

Check-list reptiles of Andalusia

Reptiles are terrestrial vertebrates, generally most feared by humans. The reason is understandable since many species of snakes around the world are poisonous and deadly. Fortunately, no Andalusian reptile represents a significant danger, although it is necessary to be prudent if we cross path with a Lataste’s viper (Vipera latasti).

In our region, vipers are rare, fearful, not very aggressive, small in size and do not even systematically inject poison into their bites, as they reserve it for their prey (rodents). In case of bite, a medical follow-up will be enough to treat the patient. It is essential not to panic to prevent the spread of poison in the body; possibly the snake was not even poisonous.

Reptiles include animals with common characteristics but whose ancestors were not close relatives. It is an obsolete term from a scientific point of view, but very practical! All reptiles are covered with scales and have a variable body temperature, that forces them to adapt their behavior (hibernation, thermoregulation), and lay eggs in the terrestrial environment.

Reptiles of Andalusia: Iberian false smooth snake

Reptiles of Andalusia: Iberian false smooth snake (Macroprotodon brevis).

Horseshoe whip snake

Horseshoe whip snake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis).

Mediterranean Pond Turtle (Mauremys leprosa)

Mediterranean Pond Turtle (Mauremys leprosa).

Mediterranean chameleon

Mediterranean chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon).

More than fifty species of reptiles are present in the Iberian Peninsula, the most biodiverse European country.

We can differentiate several main groups: the Quelonids with sea turtles, freshwater terrapins and land turtles ; and the Squamata group with Chameleons,  worm lizards (amphisbaenians), geckos, lizards, skinks and snakes (vipers and others). This demonstrates the variety of Andalusian fauna and its attractiveness.

As for sea turtles, they are difficult to observe, the commonest being the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) but only isolated reproductive cases on the coast. Among freshwater turtles, highlight the scarce European pond terrapin (Emys orbicularis) and the very abundant Moorish terrapin (Mauremys leprosa). Also included here is the Greek tortoise (Testudo graeca) whose populations are very localized and often threatened.

Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleo) is a coastal species introduced in Andalusia several hundred years ago, rare and difficult to locate due to its elusive behavior and mimetic coloration.

Two cryptic and endemic worm lizards (genus Blanus) populate our territory. Those are really curious creatures that look like worms and live underground. It is necessary to lift many stones to get to observe some.

It is possible to sight observe two species of geckos: the common salamanquesa gecko (Tarentola mauritanica), very abundant near the lampposts illuminated in summer, and the much scarcer Mediterranean house gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus).

Lizards are extremely diverse and include almost 30 species in the Iberian Peninsula. Theis taxonomy has evolved considerably in recent years and many new species have been described. As for Spain, we highlight the endemic and mountain range genus of Iberolacerta which is absent from Andalusia. Let’s mention a beautiful species easy to recognize, the spiny-footed lizard (Acanthodactylus erythrurus), present on the coast. The endangered Valverde’s lizard (Algyroides marchi) is the only species of the endemic genus, nearly restricted to Sierra de Cazorla and Segura. As for the old Iberian wall lizard (Podarcis hispanica) that occupied the entire peninsula, it has been splitted into several species: the taxon present in southern Spain is the Andalusian wall lizard Podarcis vaucheri.

Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica)

Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica).

Andalusian wall lizard (Podarcis vaucheri)

Andalusian wall lizard (Podarcis vaucheri).

Algerian sand racer (Psammodromus algirus)

Algerian sand racer (Psammodromus algirus).

Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus)

Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus). Photo: Enrique Calzado.

The genus Psammodromus, characterized by fairing scales, included two easy-to-differentiate species until recently, each recently splitted and separated by distribution. In the Malaga-Cádiz region, two species are found: Algerian psammodromus (P. algirus), which is the commonest lizard, and western lizard (P. occidentalis), the latter related to P. hispanicus.

Two large lizards must be added: Sierra Nevada lizard (Timon nevadensis) roughly south east of the Guadalquivir and the more common ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus).

Skinks (Mediterranean species) remind slowworm (Northern species). They look like lizards which legs are so small that they are uselles for locomotion. Two species are present in Andalusia and can be distinguished by the number of fingers in each member.

Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) and viperine snake (Natrix maura) are the two commonest snake species in Andalusia. The other seven species are more discreet and scarce.

Reptiles of Andalusia Checklist

Reptiles: List of species present in Andalusia

#

Group

Family

Species¹

English name

Spanish name

Identification of adults

Endemism

code

Main distribution

IUCN

1 Sea turtles Cheloniidae Caretta caretta Loggerhead sea turtle Tortuga boba Unmistakable Cosmopolitan EN
2 Tortoises Testudinidae Testudo graeca Greek tortoise Tortuga mora Unmistakable Circum Mediterranean EN
3 Terrapins Bataguridae Mauremys leprosa Moorish terrapin Galápago leproso Easy {*} Ibero-Maghrebian
4 Emydidae Emys orbicularis European pond terrapin Galápago europeo Easy Euro-Maghrebian VU
5 Emydidae Trachemys scripta elegans Red-eared Slider Galápago de Florida Easy EXOTIC
6 Worm lizards Amphisbaenidae Blanus cinereus Iberian worm lizard Culebrilla ciega Difficult ** S Iberia
7 Amphisbaenidae Blanus spec Worm lizard n°2
Difficult ** S Iberia
8 Chameleons Chamaeleonidae Chamaleo chamaeleon Mediterranean chameleon Camaleón Unmistakable Andalusia, North Africa, Levant NT
9 Geckos Gekkonidae Hemidactylus turcicus Turkish gecko Salamanquesa rosada Unmistakable Circum Mediterranean
10 Gekkonidae Tarentola mauritanica Moorish gecko Salamanquesa común Unmistakable Circum Mediterranean
11 Skinks Scincidae Chalcides bedriagai Bedriaga’s skink Eslizón ibérico Tricky * Iberia NT
12 Scincidae Chalcides striatus Western three-toad skink Eslizón tridáctilo Tricky (*) Iberia, S France
13 Lizards Lacertidae Acanthodactylus erythrurus Spiny-footed lizard Lagartija colirroja Unmistakable {*} Ibero-Maghrebian
14 Lacertidae Algyroides marchi Spanish Algyroides Lagartija de Valverde Unmistakable *** Betic mountains (Cazorla) VU
15 Lacertidae Lacerta schreiberi Schreiber’s green lizard Lagarto verdinegro Unmistakable * W Iberia CR
16 Lacertidae Podarcis carbonelli Carbonell’s wall lizard Lagartija de Carbonell Difficult * W Iberia
17 Lacertidae Podarcis hispanicus Iberian Wall Lizard Lagartija ibérica Difficult ** SE Iberia
18 Lacertidae Podarcis vaucheri Andalusian wall lizard Lagartija andaluza Difficult {*} Ibero-Maghrebian
19 Lacertidae Podarcis virescens Central Iberian Wall Lizard Lagartija ibérica verdosa Difficult * W Iberia
20 Lacertidae Psammodromus algirus Large Psammodromus Lagartija colilarga Unmistakable {*} Ibero-Maghrebian
21 Lacertidae Psammodromus edwardsianus Edwards’ Psammodromus Lagartija cenicienta de Edwards Difficult * SE Iberia
22 Lacertidae Psammodromus hispanicus Spanish Psammodromus Lagartija cenicienta Difficult (*) Centre Iberia, S France
23 Lacertidae Psammodromus occidentalis Western Psammodromus Lagartija cenicienta occidental Difficult ** SO Iberia
24 Lacertidae Timon lepidus Ocellated lizard Lagarto ocelado Easy (*) Iberia, S France
25 Lacertidae Timon nevadensis Betic lizard Lagarto bético Easy *** SE Iberia NT
26 Typical snakes Colubridae Coronella austriaca Smooth snake Culebra lisa europea Tricky Europe EN
27 Colubridae Coronella girondica Southern smooth snake Culebra lisa meridional Tricky Ibero-Maghrebian, S France, Italy
28 Colubridae Hemorrhois hippocrepis Horseshoe whip Snake Culebra de herradura Easy {*} Ibero-Maghrebian
29 Colubridae Macroprotodon brevis Iberian false smooth snake Culebra de cogulla Tricky {*} Ibero-Maghrebian NT
30 Colubridae Malpolon monspessulanus Montpellier snake Culebra bastarda Unmistakable (*) Ibero-Maghrebian, S France
31 Colubridae Natrix astrepophora Iberian grass snake Culebra de collar Easy ({*}) Ibero-Maghrebian, S France LR
32 Colubridae Natrix maura Viperine snake Culebra de agua Easy ({*}) Ibero-Maghrebian, France
33 Colubridae Zamenis scalaris Ladder snake Culebra de escalera Easy (*) Iberia, S France
34 Adders Viperidae Vipera latasti Lataste’s viper Vibora hocicuda Easy ** S Iberia VU

 

Notes

1: Reptiles checklist based on reference publication: Reptiles of Andalusia.

IUCN: Risk in the face of extinction, taking into account the Red Books of Andalusia (regional IUCN criteria), Spain (national IUCN criteria) and IUCN Red List (global analysis). LR: Lower Risk. NT: Near Threathened. VU: Vulnerable.

MORE INFO ON THE WEB

Observation.org

Spanish Herpetological Society

Spanish Atlas and Red Data Book of amphibians and reptiles

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