Sand lizards are a particularly rare and protected species in Britain. They're found only in parts of southern heathland and the sand dunes of the the north west. In mainland Europe, however, sand lizards can be found in many more places including fields and woodland, parks and gardens. During the breeding season the male's sides become highly coloured, with some individuals turning almost completely bright green. These are Britain's only egg-laying lizards and they lay their eggs in the warm sand and sunshine to incubate. The young emerge in late summer.
How to identify UK reptiles.
Scientific name: Lacerta agilis
Species range provided by WWF's Wildfinder.
The following habitats are found across the Sand lizard distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.
Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.
Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web
The sand lizard (Lacerta agilis) is a lacertid lizard distributed across most of Europe and eastwards to Mongolia. It does not occur in the Iberian peninsula or European Turkey. Its distribution is often patchy.
The sand lizard has a light underbelly and a dorsal stripe: males tend to be darker in colour and turn partly or wholly bright green during the mating season. Sand lizards can reach up to 25 cm (10 in) in length.
It has several subspecies, the westernmost of which is Lacerta agilis 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.
In the UK, the sand lizard is restricted to southern heathlands and the coastal sand dunes of north west England. It 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 female sand lizard lays eggs in loose sand in a sunny location, leaving them to be incubated by the warmth of the ground.
The UK Herpetological Conservation Trust is the lead partner in the UK Species Action Plan (SAP) for the sand lizard.
Dardanelle High School, located in Arkansas, USA, is the only school with the sand lizard as a mascot.
Sand lizard Lacerta agilis
Sand lizard, mating season colouring
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