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Rock Lizards Wall Lizards and Relatives: Lacertidae

Sand Lizard (lacerta Agilis): Species Account

Physical characteristics: One of the larger members of this family, the biggest sand lizards can grow to almost 12 inches (30 centimeters) long from the tip of the head to the end of their long tail. Most, however, reach only about 8 inches (20 centimeters) long. In the eastern part of its range, the sand lizards may be greenish, but western lizards are usually brown or gray with dark spots and/or stripes. Males of the western sand lizards also show some green along their sides and on their bellies and become brighter green during the mating season.

Geographic range: The sand lizard lives in spotty areas throughout Europe and Asia, from the British Isles to China, and as far south as Greece.

Habitat: The sand lizard is common in places with sandy soils, such as sand dunes and brushy areas, but it can also make its home in clay-type soils along forest edges and in fields and gardens.

Diet: It lives mostly on insects, which it hunts by looking for them while skittering through cover in its habitat. It will also sometimes This shy lizard often darts into holes or tunnels it finds among plant roots when it feels the least bit threatened. (Illustration by Gillian Harris. Reproduced by permission.) eat worms and other invertebrates (in-VER-teh-brehts), which are animals without backbones, as well as fruit and flowers, and once in a while even another sand lizard.

Behavior and reproduction: The sand lizard is active during the day and will run through brush above ground or bask in warm spots, but it usually stays out of sight. This shy lizard often darts into holes or tunnels it finds among plant roots when it feels the least bit threatened. Numerous sand lizards may live together in the same area. In colder climates, they will hibernate from fall to early spring.

During the breeding season in the spring, the males turn into fighters and will battle one another over the chance to mate with a female. The fights usually involve the males grasping each other's necks, and then wrestling until one gives up and leaves. After mating with a male, a female finds a sunny spot where she digs a hole and lays three to fourteen eggs. She provides no care for the eggs or her young. In forty to sixty days, the eggs hatch.

Sand lizards and people: Humans and this lizard rarely see one another.

Conservation status: Although neither the IUCN nor the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service list this species as threatened, some populations are at great risk because of the destruction of their habitat. In western Europe, the lizards typically live in heathlands, which are open areas covered with low plants and shrubs. When the heathlands are destroyed to make way for homes or other human development, the lizards disappear. ∎



Behler, John, and F. Wayne King. "Typical Old World Lizard Family (Lacertidae)," National Audubon Society Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979.

Böhme, W., ed. Handbuch der Reptilien und Amphibien Europas. 2 vols. Wiesbaden, Germany: AULA Verlag, 1984–1986.

Branch, B. Field Guide to the Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Capetown, South Africa: Struik Publishers, 1998.

Burnie, David, and Don Wilson, eds. The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife New York: DK Publishing, 2001.

Halliday, Tim, and Kraig Adler. The Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. New York: Facts on File, 1986.

Mattison, Chris. Lizards of the World. New York: Facts on File, 1989.

Valakos, E.D., W. Böhme, V. Perez-Mellado, and P. Maragou, eds. Lacertids of the Mediterranean Region: A Biological Approach. Athens, Greece: Hellenic Zoological Society, 1993.

Web sites:

"Common lizard, viviparous lizard." BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/wildfacts/factfiles/282.shtml (accessed on November 19, 2004).

"Lacerta agilis—Sand Lizard." First Nature. http://www.first-nature.com/reptiles/lacerta_vivipara.htm (accessed on November 19, 2004).

"Lacerta vivipara—Common Lizard." First Nature. http://www.first-nature.com/reptiles/lacerta_agilis.htm (accessed on November 19, 2004).

"Sand Lizard." BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/wildfacts/factfiles/283.shtml (accessed on November 19, 2004).

"Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis)." ARKive. http://www.arkive.org/species/ARK/reptiles/Lacerta_agilis/more_moving_images.html (accessed on November 19, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceDinosaurs, Snakes, and Other ReptilesRock Lizards Wall Lizards and Relatives: Lacertidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Sand Lizard (lacerta Agilis): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, ROCK LIZARDS WALL LIZARDS THEIR RELATIVES AND