Viviparous Lizard - Lacerta vivipara
This small agile reptile also known as the Common Lizard can vary extremely in colour. It is very alert and will rapidly dash for cover if disturbed. You can keep an eye out for them hunting for invertebrates, which they shake in their jaws before they chew and swallow whole, jumping amongst dense vegetation.
Can be found in dry areas with open spots for sunbathing in southern Wiltshire, though it isn’t confined there. They can also be seen in humid areas with plenty of insects, such as Landford Bog Nature Reserve.
Adults have a slender body with an angular pointed snout. The usual colour is bronze although this can vary with some animals having more green, grey or red in their colouring. Viewed from above a row of dark spots are visible which may be bordered with white or yellow. Males have bright undersides, with black spots, coloured yellow, orange and sometimes red. Females however have a plain pale underside, though both males and females can be black all over. Males also have larger heads than females, more slender bodies and have a prominent swelling at the base of their tail.
Viviparous Lizards spend the majority of their time basking in sunlight, especially either side of hibernation in spring and autumn. As they are cold blooded animals their body temperature changes based upon their surroundings making them reliant upon the warmth of the sun to heat them up sufficiently, about a 15°C temperature rise, to be able to hunt.
When it becomes cold in October, they hibernate in burrows under rocks and logs until March. After they’ve emerged breeding takes place through April into May, with males at their most vibrant this time as they have shed their old skin. To mate, a male grabs a female in their jaws to see if she is receptive; if she isn’t she’ll bite him fiercely. The fertilised eggs develop over three months inside the female, during which she’ll bask intensively to aid the development of the young, before she gives birth to around seven black young surrounded by an egg membrane, from which they free themselves a day later using a small egg-tooth.
It is protected in Britain under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) against injury, killing and selling. This species is now a priority species within the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.