The Wall Lizard Lézard des Murailles

The common wall lizard is a very tiresome creature to identify postively. It is very varied in its depth of colour, between brown to greenish and in the markings of the scales. It looks very like its near relative, the viviparous lizard and not until you have one dead in your hands can you be sure which is which. Until recently the wall lizard was absent from England, but now there are colonies along the south coast and in South London, probably all beginning as escaped pets. Otherwise it occurs in the region bounded by north Spain, France, south Germany, Italy and the Balkans. The two species exist together throughout France, but the viviparous is predominent in northern Europe. The habit of this latter lizard of NOT laying eggs but producing young from eggs with membrane skinned 'shells' which hatch at the moment of birth has no doubt been of help in its reproduction in the colder northern areas. Apparently its populations in central France do sometimes lay eggs!

You can be pretty certain that if the animal is climbing a wall, then it is the wall lizard. But if it is on the ground in some heathy area, then you cannot be sure. If it is dead you can count the scales to distinguish them! If they are small and the number horizontally across the back are well over forty then it is the wall lizard. If there are less than 36, then it is the viviparous species. If you look at the eyes, then in the first species (wall) there is a long row of tiny scales above the eye like an eyebrow, so small that a lens is helpful to see them. In the second species these do not exist or there only a few.

It is very common to see both lizards with no tail or a tail which has regrown. This is the case in this photo. The tail snaps off very easily if grabbed and a predator can be left with a wiggling tail end whilst its owner gets away. The blood vessels at each vertebral joint contract so that there is almost no bleeding.

The wall lizard lays about 5 or so eggs, with soft shells each about a centimetre long in some cavity in May or June where they will stay for about 2 months until hatching. A curiosity of all lizards is that the males have two penises, which it is supposed are used one at a time!

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