The sand lizard is found across much of Europe and in to Central Asia. They are one of the few lizards found in the United Kingdom where they are highly endangered.
These animals are primarily carnivorous and seek out insects on which to feed.
Females will seek out a spot in the sun. Here she can deposit her eggs which require the heat from the sun during their incubation to develop.
These animals are threatened across parts of their range by habitat loss, vehicle strikes and the effects of inbreeding due to small populations.
Read on to learn more about these remarkable reptiles.
What does the sand lizard look like?
Sand lizards are brightly patterned and sexually dimorphic. The male is colored bright green contrasting with the brown of the females. Along the back of the female are dark blotches. Across their range their are local variations in their pattern.
At the end of the body is a long tail which may as much as double their body length.
An average sand lizard will measure 18-19cm (7-7.5in) long and weigh up to 15g (0.5oz).
What does the sand lizard eat?
These animals are primarily carnivorous feeding on a range of invertebrates. Small amounts of fruit or flowers may also be consumed.
On occasion they have recorded to eat young common lizards or even juvenile sand lizards.
Credit: Public Domain
Where can you find the sand lizard?
Europe and Central Asia is the native home of the sand lizard. Here they can be found in the following countries – Albania; Andorra; Armenia; Austria; Azerbaijan; Belarus; Belgium; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; China; China (Xinjiang); Croatia; Czechia; Denmark; Estonia; Finland; France; Georgia; Germany; Greece; Hungary; Italy; Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Latvia; Liechtenstein; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Moldova; Mongolia; Montenegro; Netherlands; North Macedonia; Poland; Romania; Russian Federation; Serbia; Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; Turkey; Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
In the United Kingdom they are being reintroduced after being removed from much of their range.
What kind of environment does the sand lizard live in?
These animals make their home in forest, shrubland, meadows, steppe, subalpine, woodland, grassland and sand dune habitats.
These animals dig burrows of up to 1m (3.3ft) deep in which they can seek cover or undertake their hibernation. They disguise the entrance to the burrow among undergrowth.
How does the sand lizard produce its young?
At the beginning of the breeding season the males will battle one another to gain mating rights with the biggest and most fertile females.
The males can be rather aggressive in their attempts to force mating and may seize the male in their jaws.
During the breeding season the coloration of the male becomes more vibrant.
Males and females will both mate with multiple partners during the breeding season. This can result in the clutch of a single female including hatchlings with different fathers.
Egg-laying takes place from May to June.
Each clutch produced by the female includes around 14 eggs. These are deposited in a nest which is deposited in a hole dug in sandy soil. They undergo a 50-55 day incubation period.
In cooler parts of their range they will seek out a spot in the sun where the eggs will remain warm.
In warmer portions of their range they are able to produce two clutches each year.
Sexual maturity is reached between 2 and 3 years old in the wild but in captivity has been reached as early as 9 months old.
What does the sand lizard do with its day?
During winter these animals will hibernate emerging in March or April across much of the range.
They spend their day sitting in the sun to raise their body temperature which helps them to produce energy. If they become too warm they will move in to their underground burrow.
Credit: Public Domain
Predators and Threats
What is impacting the survival of the sand lizard?
To evade predators they can practice autonomy, the ability to shed their tail. This continues to wiggle after being shed from the body and helps to distract the predator while the lizard escapes.
Overall the population of the sand lizard is believed to be stable but in localized areas they are threatened.
The survival of the sand lizard is being impacted by habitat loss primarily for urbanization or conversion to agriculture. They are regular victims of vehicle strikes.
In Sweden the population has dwindled to such a small size that inbreeding depression has been observed in the fragmented population.
Small numbers may be collected for the pet trade.
They may also be known as the Mongolian lacerta.
Credit: Public Domain
Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK
Jackson, T. and Chinery, M., 2012. The illustrated encyclopedia of animals of the world. London: Southwater.
Aghasyan, A., Avci, A., Tuniyev, B., Lymberakis, P., Andrén, C., Cogălniceanu, D., Wilkinson, J., Ananjeva, N.B., Üzüm, N., Orlov, N.L., Podloucky, R., Tuniyev, S., Kaya, U., Crnobrnja-Isailović, J., Vogrin, M., Corti, C., Pérez Mellado, V., Sá-Sousa, P., Cheylan, M., Pleguezuelos, J., Kyek, M., Westerström, A., Nettmann, H.K., Borczyk, B., Sterijovski, B., Schmidt, B., Terbish, K., Orlova, V., Chirikova, M., Doronin, I. & Shi, L. 2021. Lacerta agilis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2021: e.T157288A49644624. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2021-2.RLTS.T157288A49644624.en. Downloaded on 10 October 2021.
Wildlifetrusts.org. 2021. Sand lizard | The Wildlife Trusts. [online] Available at: <https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/reptiles/sand-lizard> [Accessed 10 October 2021].
Froglife.org. 2021. Sand Lizard. [online] Available at: <https://www.froglife.org/info-advice/amphibians-and-reptiles/sand-lizard/> [Accessed 11 October 2021].
New Forest National Park. 2021. Sand Lizard Fact File | New Forest National Park. [online] Available at: <https://www.new-forest-national-park.com/sand-lizard-fact-file/> [Accessed 11 October 2021].
Langham, S., 2021. Sand Lizard. [online] Surrey-arg.org.uk. Available at: <http://surrey-arg.org.uk/SARGWEB.php?app=SpeciesData&Species=sand_lizard> [Accessed 11 October 2021].
Copyright The Animal Facts 2023