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Podarcis muralis facts for kids

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Common wall lizard
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Lacertidae
Genus: Podarcis
Species: P. muralis
Binomial name
Podarcis muralis
(Laurenti, 1768)
Native range of P. muralis in Europe
Synonyms
  • Seps muralis Laurenti, 1768
  • Lacertus terrestris Garsault, 1764
  • Lacerta muralis (Laurenti, 1768)

Podarcis muralis (common wall lizard) is a species of lizard with a large distribution in Europe and well-established introduced populations in North America, where it is also called the European wall lizard. It can grow to about 20 cm (7.9 in) in total length.

Description

The common wall lizard is a small, thin lizard whose small scales are highly variable in colour and pattern. Its coloration is generally brownish or greyish, and may occasionally be tinged with green. In some individuals, the row of spots along their backs may form a line, while others may have a reticulated pattern with dark spots on the side and scattered white spots that can be blue in the shoulder region. The tail is brown, grey or rust in colour, and may also have light bars on the sides. The belly region has six rows of larger rectangular scales that are generally reddish, pink, or orangish. Common wall lizards may also have dark markings on the throat. This lizard has six distinct morphological forms which are identified by the colouration of its throat and underbelly. Three of these are pure morphs consisting only of solid colours on their scales: white, red (orange) or yellow, and three other morphs are distinguished by a combination of colours: white-yellow, white-red and yellow-red.

Ecology

The common wall lizard prefers rocky environments, including urban settings, where it can scurry between rock, rubble, debris and buildings. In the southern part of its range it tends to occur in humid or semi-humid habitats, compared to drier habitats in the north.

Chemical communication

Female wall lizards can discriminate between males with dissimilar levels of testosterone based on the scent alone, as females tongue-flick at higher rates towards females gland secretions of males with high levels of testosterone. Males with high levels of testosterone also produce higher amounts of secretion.

Distribution and status

The natural range spans much of the mainland Europe except from the north and very south and extends to Turkey. It occurs as introduced populations in southern Britain, where one such population in the seaside town of Ventnor on the Isle of Wight has become somewhat famous, and also in North America. There has been some scientific debate as to whether the populations in Southern England represent the northern edge of their native range.

North America

Podarcis muralis has been introduced in the United States and is spreading throughout the Cincinnati metropolitan area. It is commonly observed living in limestone outcrops, rock walls, and rubble along the Ohio River basin.

Podarcis muralis Cinti
Podarcis muralis photographed in Cincinnati, Ohio - 2015.

It is referred to locally in the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area as the "Lazarus lizard", as it was introduced to the area around 1950 by George Rau, a boy who was a member of the family who owned the Lazarus department store chain (now absorbed into Macy's). After he returned from a family vacation to northern Italy, he released about 10 of the reptiles near his Cincinnati home. This prolific lizard has reproduced exponentially; it continues to expand its distribution range annually, and has established itself so well in southwest Ohio, it is now considered a naturalized species by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and is protected under state law (it is illegal to harm, capture, or possess this animal without a proper licence).

The European wall lizard was also introduced to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada in 1970, when a dozen individuals were released into the wild from a small private zoo.

This lizard is also present in Los Angeles and San Diego counties in California and may exist elsewhere in California.

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