GREECE 2012

 

 

Reptilia: LACERTILIA (Lizards)

Lizards diversity was not as great as we expected, we did not find any geckos or skinks despite both families being represented by Thracian species. We documented only three confirmed lizard species from two families.

Anguidae:

Pseudopus apodus thracius - Thracian scheltopusik
The Scheltopusik is the longest legless lizard in the world, capably of lengths of 1.2-1.4 m. It is also variously known as the "glass snake" or "glass lizard" due to its ability to autotomise (discard) its tail as a defensive tactic. The subspecies in Greek is the western form, the Thracian scheltopusik (Pseudopus apodus thracius) and it is very, very common - we found it in most of the locations where we searched.

We saw or heard many scheltopusiks moving through the vegetation during the day and found at least six road-killed specimens. All were adults except the first live specimen found under a rock out towards Mákri on our first evening. Scheltopusiks are much noisier than snakes when they travel through the vegetation, and also much more rigid and awkward in their movements. The noisiest specimens encountered were a threesome engaged in courtship activity near Loutrós, the chasing and thrashing of tails and bodies being audible from a considerable distance, the males biting the female's head as each sought to mate with her. Males can be distingished from female by their much broader heads while juveniles bear a striped pattern.

For anyone who thinks these curious lizards are familiar, you may have seen them in the movies!
Most of the 'snakes' provided for the film Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark were in fact scheltopusiks, large numbers of them collected in the Balkans to suplimate the few boas, pythons and the single cobra used in the film - they were effectively the herpetological extras. Sadly it is believed they were not returned to the wild afterwards.

Thracian scheltopusik,
Pseudopus apodus thracius

juvenile from near Mákri
Thracian scheltopusik,
Pseudopus apodus thracius

adult male from near Loutrós
Thracian scheltopusik,
Pseudopus apodus thracius

two males and a female in courtship near Loutrós

Lacertidae:

Lacerta trilineata trilineata - Balkan green lizard
The Balkan green lizard (Lacerta trilineata trilineata) (SVL <160 mm) was seen near in several of the locations where we searched around Alessandroúpoli and Loutrós but these alert lizards always evaded capture, especially in the bushes and trash searched on the first evening. We did obtain one juvenile bearing the characteristic trilineate pattern. Adult males were distinquished from adult male Northeastern green lizards (Lacerta viridis meridionalis) by their yellow, as opposed to blue, throat markings. The Balkan green lizard's range is confined to Southeastern Europe.

Balkan green lizard,
Lacerta trilineata trilineata

juvenile near Loutrós


Lacerta viridis meridionalis - Northeastern green lizard
Northeastern green lizards (Lacerta viridis meridionalis) (SVL <160 mm) were more in evidence around Passáni where several basking or displaying males and females were sufficiently exposed for photography to be possible. I captued another adult male in the top of a tree, where it fled when disturbed by Øyvind and myself, and an unstriped juvenile was also obtained for photography, Further north the nominate subspecies occurs along the Bulgarian and Macedonian borders. Males in breeding colours possess vivid blue throats, a characteristic that helps separate them from the yellow-throated Balkan green lizard (L.trilineata).

Northeastern green lizard,
Lacerta viridis meridionalis

female (left) and male (right) near Passáni
Northeastern green lizard,
Lacerta viridis meridionalis

males from Passáni
Northeastern green lizard,
Lacerta viridis meridionalis

juvenile near Passáni