The viviparous lizard is otherwise known as the European common lizard. They are found across parts of Europe and Asia with their range extending in to the cold, northern areas of this continent.
One of the most unique parts of their biology is that in parts of their range they give birth to live young while in other areas they lay eggs which develop outside of the body.
They are insectivores which feed on a range of invertebrates.
Across their range they enjoy a large population but in some areas they are threatened by habitat loss.
Read on to learn more about these amazing animals.
Across their range the scale coloration of the viviparous lizard is highly variable with brown, dark-green or bronze scales. Some all black specimens have been recorded.
While their body features heavy patterning they are easily able to blend with their surroundings when viewed from a distance.
In general males more often have spots across the back while females tend to have stripes. Females have a plain, pale underside while the male has a bright yellow or orange belly with speckles across it.
An average viviparous lizard would measure 10-16cm (4-6.5in) long with a weight of 2-5g (0.07-0.18oz).
Viviparous lizards are carnivores which primarily feed on insects and invertebrates.
Viviparous lizards are found through Europe and Asia. Here they ca be found in the following countries – Albania; Austria; Belarus; Belgium; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; China; China; Croatia; Czechia; Denmark; Estonia; Finland; France; Germany; Hungary; Ireland; Italy; Japan; Kazakhstan; Latvia; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Moldova; Mongolia; Montenegro; Netherlands; North Macedonia; Norway; Poland; Romania; Russia; Serbia; Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
Their current presence in Greece is uncertain.
The wide range of the viviparous lizard means they inhabit a wide range of habitats. These include forest, shrubland, woodland and woodland edges, peat bogs, coastal regions, grassland and wetland.
They will also live alongside humans in their backyards and also inhabit rubbish dumps.
— AD —
In the United Kingdom they will breed in late spring with the young being born in July.
Across their range the viviparous lizard will engage in two breeding systems. In much of their range they give birth to up to 11 young which are fully formed and born live having hatched from their egg inside the mother. In other areas though they lay eggs which develop externally.
Live born young can emerge days or even weeks apart.
This system of breeding is an adaptation which allows them to survive in areas they otherwise wouldn’t such as the cold of the Arctic.
While scientists have been able to hybridize the live bearing and egg laying populations in the lab it did create a high number of embryonic malfunctions.
In some regions they will lay between one and thirteen eggs in a clutch. These take three months to incubate.
Young are independent from birth with no parental care being provided.
Due to the long hibernation in the north of their range they will often breed only once in every two or three years.
Sexual maturity is reached at 2 years old.
In northern, colder areas of their range they will undertake a period of hibernation which in some areas may live for up to 8 months. During this period they will seek shelter under a rock or log.
Much of their life is spent on the ground where they will hide among dense vegetation.
During the day they will bask on a sunny bank. They flatten out their body during this time. This often occurs near dense vegetation in to which they can dart if a threat approaches.
Predators and Threats
When threatened they may shed their tail which continues moving and distracts the predator. They can regrow the tail but the new one is often shorter.
Across their range they face threats in some localized areas such as habitat loss from urbanization, tourism developments such as those in alpine areas and agricultural expansion.
While considered to be common across much of their range and listed as least concern by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature this species is declining in some localized areas.
Viviparous lizards are among the most common lizards in Europe and have one of the largest continuous ranges of any reptile.
These animals may also be referred to as the common lizard.
The scientific name of this species was formerly, Lacerta vivipara.
Their name, viviparous lizard comes from a word meaning ‘to bear live young.’
Stanislaw Szydlo, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Gailhampshire from Cradley, Malvern, U.K, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Jackson, T. and Chinery, M., 2005. Animals of Africa & Europe. London: Southwater.
Woodward, J. and Bryan, K., 2016. DK knowledge encyclopedia Animal!. London: Dorling Kindersley
Ambrose, J., 2015. Wildlife Of The World. 1st ed. London: Dorling Kindersley
Aghasyan, A., Avci, A., Tuniyev, B., Crnobrnja-Isailović, J., Lymberakis, P., Andrén, C., Cogalniceanu, D., Wilkinson, J., Ananjeva, N.B., Üzüm, N., Orlov, N.L., Podloucky, R., Tuniyev, S., Kaya, U., Böhme, W., Nettmann, H.K., Joger, U., Cheylan, M., Pérez Mellado, V., Borczyk, B., Sterijovski, B., Westerström, A., Schmidt, B., Terbish, K., Munkhbayar, K., Nazarov, R., Shi, L., Zhao, W. & Bi, J. 2019. Zootoca vivipara. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T61741A49741947. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-2.RLTS.T61741A49741947.en. Downloaded on 07 July 2021.
The Reptile Database. 2021. Zootoca vivipara. [online] Available at: <https://reptile-database.reptarium.cz/species?genus=Zootoca&species=vivipara> [Accessed 7 July 2021].
Trust, W., 2021. [online] Woodland Trust. Available at: <https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/animals/reptiles-and-amphibians/common-lizard/> [Accessed 7 July 2021].
Wildlifetrusts.org. 2021. Common lizard | The Wildlife Trusts. [online] Available at: <https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/reptiles/common-lizard> [Accessed 7 July 2021].
y, C. 2012. “Zootoca vivipara” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed July 07, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Zootoca_vivipara/
Copyright The Animal Facts 2023