Fine Art

Lacerta agilis (*)

Superregnum: Eukaryota
Cladus: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Cladus: Holozoa
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Superphylum: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Megaclassis: Osteichthyes
Cladus: Sarcopterygii
Cladus: Rhipidistia
Cladus: Tetrapodomorpha
Cladus: Eotetrapodiformes
Cladus: Elpistostegalia
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Cladus: Reptiliomorpha
Cladus: Amniota
Classis: Reptilia
Cladus: Eureptilia
Cladus: Romeriida
Subclassis: Diapsida
Cladus: Sauria
Infraclassis: Lepidosauromorpha
Superordo: Lepidosauria
Ordo: Squamata
Cladus: Unidentata Episquamata

Subordo: Lacertoidea
Infraordo: Lacertibaenia

Familia: Lacertidae
Subfamilia: Lacertinae
Genus: Lacerta
Species: Lacerta agilis

Lacerta agilis Linnaeus, 1758
Type locality: South Sweden


Andres, C., Franke, F., Bleidorn, C., Bernhard , d., Schlegel, M., 2014: Phylogenetic analysis of the Lacerta agilis subspecies complex. Systematics and biodiversity, 12(1): 43–54. DOI: 10.1080/14772000.2013.878000 Paywall. Reference page.
Linnaeus, C. 1758. Systema Naturae per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis, Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata. Holmiæ: impensis direct. Laurentii Salvii. i–ii, 1–824 pp DOI: 10.5962/bhl.title.542: 203. Reference page.
Lacerta agilis at the New Reptile Database

Vernacular names
Boarisch: Zauhoadax(erl)
беларуская (тарашкевіца): Яшчарка порсткая
беларуская: Яшчарка порсткая
български: Ливаден гущер
català: Llangardaix pirinenc
čeština: Ještěrka obecná
Cymraeg: Madfall y tywod
dansk: Markfirben
Deutsch: Zauneidechse
English: Sand Lizard
español: Lagarto ágil
eesti: Kivisisalik
suomi: Hietasisilisko
føroyskt: Sandferføtla
français: Lézard des souches
עברית: לטאת החולות
magyar: Fürge gyík
italiano: Lucertola degli arbusti
lietuvių: Vikrusis driežas
македонски: Планинска гуштерица
Nederlands: Zandhagedis
norsk: Sandfirfisle
polski: Jaszczurka zwinka
português: Lagarto-ágil
русский: Прыткая ящерица
slovenčina: Jašterica krátkohlavá
slovenščina: Martinček
svenska: Sandödla
Tagalog: Bubuli
українська: Ящірка прудка
Tiếng Việt: Thằn lằn sa mạc
中文: 捷蜥蜴

The sand lizard (Lacerta agilis) is a lacertid lizard distributed across most of Europe from France and across the continent to Lake Baikal in Russia.[2][3] It does not occur in European Turkey. Its distribution is often patchy.[4] In the sand lizard's northern populations, such as in Great Britain, it is only able to survive along coastal heathlands where the sand is hot enough to incubate their eggs.

Males are known for their bright colorations and aggressive behaviors when competing for females. Their mating process is unique because of its relatively short time period and because males are generally more selective with who they mate with than females. Females typically only lay a single clutch in a year.

Sand lizards spend most of their time basking, foraging, or under vegetation and prefer to live in diverse habitats. Males have their own home territories that are very wide and often overlap with other males. These males compete with each other while females have smaller home territories that neighbor each other and will sometimes share habitats with each other. They can live for up to ten years and because of this relatively long lifespan, they are sometimes subject to inbreeding and producing malformed offspring.


The sand lizard is a sexually dimorphic legged lizard. In northwest Europe, both sexes are characterised by lateral and dorsal strips of ocellated (eye-shaped) markings, dark patches with pale centres. Colouration varies across their European and Russian range. Males have finer markings than females, and their flanks turn bright green during the spring mating season, fading again in the late summer. Male adults may reach a total body length of 19.3 cm, where female adults may reach 18.5 cm.[5]

It has several subspecies, the westernmost of which is L. a. agilis. In this and the other main western subspecies (L. a. argus), the dorsal stripe is thin and interrupted, or not present at all. This applies particularly to the latter subspecies, which also includes a plain red or brown-backed phase without any dorsal markings. In these two subspecies, only the flanks of the males turn green in the mating season, but in the eastern subspecies (predominantly L. a. exigua), males can be wholly green, even outside the breeding season.

Most of these lizards live in Eastern Europe. They are mostly common in Poland, Czech Republic, and countries around that area. They bask on rocks in the day and at night they go into their holes under ground. To protect themselves, they pop off their tails and bite the predators.

Male sand lizards are known for their nuptial areas showing very green coloration, this coloration has been shown to be brighter depending on body mass and fighting ability. Males with brighter colors were more likely to initiate aggressive behaviors and win fights, which generally leads to them having a higher mating success.[6]

Sand lizards can live for over ten years, with their average lifespan lasting between 5–6 years.[7]
Habitat and Distribution

The sand lizard can be found in a variety of habitat. They prefer dry habitats such as outcrops, fields, hills, beaches, heathland, sand dunes, and rock gardens. While in continental Europe the sand lizard has a wide variety of habitat, in colder places like Great Britain they depend on sand to incubate their eggs and such are restricted to coastal habitats.

Male sand lizards have home ranges with an extremely high amount of overlap; however, female sand lizards have much smaller home ranges (generally less than 100 meters squared) that neighbor each other or they will even share burrows or basking areas with each other.[8] They highly prefer and are much more active in areas with a wide variety of structural characteristics. This can create different temperature micro areas that they are able to move between depending on their needs.[9]
General Activity

Sand lizards spend extended periods of the day after emerging on long basking sessions. They occasionally take breaks to forage for resources. They also spend a considerable amount of time simply doing normal activity in areas under concealed vegetation. Under poor weather conditions, sand lizards emerge from resting locations later and bask less often throughout the day. Sand lizards most frequently bask on logs. This is most likely due to its absorption and slow release of heat radiation as well as providing a vantage point to spot potential predators and prey. They very rarely share basking sites with other lizards. Male sand lizards especially avoid sharing basking sites with each other, and are only found occasionally sharing with females. They avoid basking on open sand or soil and prefer to use vegetation if they bask on the ground. They thermoregulate themselves by moving between areas of high and low insolation.[9]
Mate Selection

In general, female mate choice in organisms is more selective than male mate choice. This is due to the fact that females generally have to invest more time and resources into offspring than males who are under less selective pressures due to their low parental investment.[8]

Generally females will simply reject male attempts at mating outside of their receptive mating period, doing so through a unique head bobbing behavior. However, during their period of receptivity, females have been known to not discriminate against different males and do not reject them besides when they are outside of this period.[8]

Male sand lizards have been shown to highly prefer larger females when selecting mates, but they are still willing to mate with smaller females if the opportunity presents itself. It was observed that some males that were too small for the large females they attempted to court had troubles gripping females with their jaws during copulation due to their small size. This may be one constricting factor in their choice of mate.[8]

Generally, males reach sexual maturity at a smaller size compared with females. Vitellogenesis happens when females are 45 days for the whole population. Both sexes tend to lose body fat during mating period, since their main energy resources come from body fat and from the liver and proximal at the tail.[10] After a few weeks from the hibernation, male adults become extremely aggressive towards each other, trying to mate as many females as they can.[11]

The female sand lizard lays eggs in loose sand in a sunny location, leaving them to be incubated by the warmth of the ground.[12]

Female sand lizards usually only lay a single clutch each year and clutch sizes that range between six and 15 eggs in a single one. However, there is a lot of variation in the time of year when females end up laying their eggs. But generally a single female sand lizard has a relatively consistent egg laying timing from year-to-year, with the first ones to do so generally being larger, more physically fit females. These early clutches ended up producing offspring that were larger, more successful, and had higher survival rates. Generally offspring from earlier clutches were higher quality offspring.[13]

When female sand lizards produce larger clutch sizes, the size of each individual offspring in it has been observed to decrease. On the opposite side, smaller clutch sizes had fewer, but larger, offspring. When food resources were increased so it was not a limiting factor, clutch size increased significantly, so it is likely that sand lizards produce clutch sizes with different offspring sizes based on resource availability. The other factor that contributes is the physical constraints of the space available to lay their clutches in.[14]
Reproductive Success with Age

Sand lizards have demonstrated that as their age increases, so does their reproductive success. However, a study showed that this relationship is most likely due to the increase in body size as sand lizards mature rather than increased experience they acquire as they live longer. This may be because female sand lizards that are larger are simply able to produce more clutches with the increased space in their bodies.[15]
Inbreeding avoidance

When a female sand lizard mates with two or more males, sperm competition within the female's reproductive tract may occur. Active selection of sperm by females appears to occur in a manner that enhances female fitness.[16] On the basis of this selective process, the sperm of males that are more distantly related to the female are preferentially used for fertilization, rather than the sperm of close relatives.[16] This preference may enhance the fitness of progeny by reducing inbreeding depression. Multiple inseminations of multiple fully fertile males can result in multiple paternity of the offspring. Mating order and time between copulations has been found to have no effect on the reproductive success of the first or last male to mate.[17]

Natural malformed offspring have been observed in sand lizards most likely due to close kin inbreeding defects. Because of their relatively long lifespan and male polygynous mating, there is a decent chance of inbreeding occurring during their lifespan. Inbreeding has been seen to cause malformations in sand lizards with studies in laboratory settings mirroring the deformations seen naturally in the wild.[7]
Predators and Competitors

Sand lizards are preyed upon by a variety of predators including mustelids, foxes, badgers, birds, and snakes. In addition to wild predators, domestic species, such as pheasants, chickens, and cats.

Sand lizard locomotor performance, agility, and speed is related to their ability to avoid predators (as well as foraging efficiency). Like many lizards, sand lizards are able to separate their tail from the rest of their body in order to escape predators. Sand lizards with autotomy were able to run faster and as a result were better at avoiding predators that were chasing them.[18] These tails do not regrow past 80% the original length after autotomy.[19]

Sand lizards are a frequent carrier of common ticks which are a great risk to the health of the lizards, especially males during breeding seasons when they have great mobility. Males with larger home territory ranges were also subject to carrying even greater loads of parasites.[20] Trematodes, metacercariae, cestode larva, nematodes, nematode larvae and acarines are all examples of parasites that inhabit the alimentary tract of this lizard. [21]
Competitive Behavior

Male sand lizards are polygynous and compete with each other for female mates through incredibly aggressive manners. Sand lizard copulation is a process that lasts 2–4 minutes and after it is completed, the males will guard the individual female for hours or up to several days to protect them. After this time period, they will continue their search for new mates.[8]

When male sand lizards compete over females, they perform ritualistic displays that often escalate into aggressive behaviors and actual combat. Males raise themselves up on all four limbs and turn over to intimidate their opponents, one may back down at this stage but if not, the two can begin fighting actual combat. They mainly attack through biting each other and aim at the heads or other vulnerable spots. Occasionally, even extremely deep cuts into jaw muscles and tissues were observed. Generally, equally sized males will have longer fights than two males with differing sizes; however, males fighting intruders in their own areas of residence did not win significantly more than intruders.[22]

If male sand lizards engage in a fight with another multiple times, they will consider them a rival. However, subsequent aggressive interactions beyond the first one tend to be much shorter on average than the first encounter between the two. This is most likely because they are able to individually recognize others and the result of the fight between two rivals will most likely be similar to the first, so they are able to predict the outcome and end their battle early.[6]

Sand lizard mating seasons are very short, lasting only 17 days of the entire year. Generally males are only able to mate with an absolute maximum of six different females during this time period and because a single mating guarding session can take up to 18% of the entire mating season.[8]

Because of this, a several day time commitment means the investment male sand lizards put into mating is incredibly high and as a result males can begin to develop selective preferences for certain females. Because female sand lizards are often found close together in groups, males have more choices and opportunities to choose a mate depending on their individual characteristics.[8]
Conservation status

This lizard is regarded as threatened and is strictly protected under UK law – as it is throughout most of Europe (it is a European Protected Species). This is in contrast to L. a. exigua, whose Russian name translates as the "common lizard". The UK Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust coordinates conservation action for the sand lizard, including a successful captive-breeding and reintroduction programme.

Sand Lizard is facing multiple threats including habitat destruction, habitat degradation, habitat fragmentation, lack of habitat management, inappropriate habitat management right now. Although UK has making the protection of sand lizard as a law, there are still actions needed to be taken, including habitat protection, habitat management, species protection, species management, distribution surveys, population and conservation status monitoring, scientific research, and public awareness.[23]

Efforts in the UK have been made to protect and conserve their habitats because the sand lizard is one of only six reptile species found in Britain. Lizard populations were analyzed and their habitats were studied and specific recommendations were made for maintaining the quality of the environments so sand lizards can continue to inhabit those regions.[24]

See also

Hesketh Golf Links, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (UK protected land), a UK habitat where sand lizards exist
List of reptiles of Italy


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". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2021: e.T157288A49644624. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2021-2.RLTS.T157288A49644624.en. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
M., Smith (1969). The British Amphibians and Reptiles. Collins, London, UK.
"Lacerta Agilis LINNAEUS, 1758". Retrieved 30 August 2021.
Arnold, E. Nicholas; Arribas, Oscar; Carranza, Salvador (2007). "Systematics of the Palaearctic and Oriental lizard tribe Lacertini (Squamata: Lacertidae: Lacertinae), with descriptions of eight new genera" (PDF). Zootaxa. Auckland, New Zealand: Magnolia Press. 1430: 1–86. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.1430.1.1. ISBN 978-1-86977-097-6. Retrieved 12 July 2017.
"Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis)".
Olsson, Mats (1994-10-01). "Rival recognition affects male contest behavior in sand lizards (Lacerta agilis)". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 35 (4): 249–252. doi:10.1007/BF00170705. ISSN 1432-0762.
Olsson, M.; Gullberg, A.; Tegelström, H. (1996). "Malformed offspring, sibling matings, and selection against inbreeding in the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis)". Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 9 (2): 229–242. doi:10.1046/j.1420-9101.1996.9020229.x. ISSN 1420-9101.
Olsson, Mats (1993-05-01). "Male preference for large females and assortative mating for body size in the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis)". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. 32 (5): 337–341. doi:10.1007/BF00183789. ISSN 1432-0762.
House, S. M.; Taylor, P. J.; Spellerberg, I. F. (1979-01-01). "Patterns of daily behaviour in two lizard species Lacerta agilis L. and Lacerta vivipara Jacquin". Oecologia. 44 (3): 396–402. doi:10.1007/BF00545244. ISSN 1432-1939.
Strasbourg (26 October 2006). "Action Plan for the Conservation of the Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis) in Northwest Europe"
Corbett, K.F. and D.L. Tamarind. 1979. Conservation of the sand lizard, Lacerta agilis, by habitat management. Brit. J. Herp. 5: 799-823.
Olsson, Mats (1988-01-01). "Ecology of a Swedish population of the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis) - a preliminary report". Mertensiella. 1: 86–91.
Olsson, M.; Shine, R. (1997). "The seasonal timing of oviposition in sand lizards (Lacerta agilis): why early clutches are better". Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 10 (3): 369–381. doi:10.1046/j.1420-9101.1997.10030369.x. ISSN 1420-9101.
Olsson, M.; Shine, R. (January 1997). "The Limits to Reproductive Output: Offspring Size Versus Number in the Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis)". The American Naturalist. 149 (1): 179–188. doi:10.1086/285985. ISSN 0003-0147.
Olsson, Mats; Shine, Richard (1996-01-01). "Does reproductive success increase with age or with size in species with indeterminate growth? A case study using sand lizards (Lacerta agilis)". Oecologia. 105 (2): 175–178. doi:10.1007/BF00328543. ISSN 1432-1939.
Olsson M, Shine R, Madsen T, Gullberg A, Tegelström H (1997). "Sperm choice by females". Trends Ecol. Evol. 12 (11): 445–6. doi:10.1016/s0169-5347(97)85751-5. PMID 21238151.
Olsson, Mats; Gullberg, Annica; Tegelströ, Håkan (1994-07-01). "Sperm competition in the sand lizard, Lacerta agilis". Animal Behaviour. 48 (1): 193–200. doi:10.1006/anbe.1994.1226. ISSN 0003-3472.
Ekner-Grzyb, Anna; Sajkowska, Zofia; Dudek, Krzysztof; Gawałek, Monika; Skórka, Piotr; Tryjanowski, Piotr (2013). "Locomotor performance of sand lizards (Lacerta agilis): effects of predatory pressure and parasite load". Acta Ethologica. 16: 173–179. doi:10.1007/s10211-013-0148-2. ISSN 0873-9749. PMC 3775096. PMID 24052686.
Khabibullin, V. F. (2000-01-01). "Some specific features of tail regeneration in the sand lizard (Lacerta agilis)". Russian Journal of Ecology. 31 (1): 66–68. doi:10.1007/BF02799730. ISSN 1608-3334.
Wieczorek, Magdalena; Rektor, Robert; Najbar, Bartłomiej; Morelli, Federico (2020-05-26). "Tick parasitism is associated with home range area in the sand lizard, Lacerta agilis". Amphibia-Reptilia. 41 (4): 479–488. doi:10.1163/15685381-bja10018. ISSN 1568-5381.
Lewin, J. (1992). "Parasites of the sand lizard [Lacerta agilis L.] in Poland". Acta Parasitologica. 37 (1). ISSN 1230-2821.
Olsson, Mats (1992-08-01). "Contest success in relation to size and residency in male sand lizards, Lacerta agilis". Animal Behaviour. 44: 386–388. doi:10.1016/0003-3472(92)90046-C. ISSN 0003-3472.
House, Susan M.; Spellerberg, Ian F. (1983). "Ecology and Conservation of the Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis L.) Habitat in Southern England". Journal of Applied Ecology. 20 (2): 417–437. doi:10.2307/2403517. ISSN 0021-8901.

Biology Encyclopedia

Reptiles Images

Retrieved from ""
All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Home - Hellenica World