Viviparous lizard

One of the few reptiles that can not only lay eggs but also give birth to live young

Holger Krisp

A widespread and adaptable reptile that can be found across Europe and northern Asia, extending its range into China and Japan. Remarkably, it is the only reptile native to both Ireland and Great Britain and is notable for being the most northerly occurring non-marine reptile in the world.

The viviparous lizard’s ability to thrive in such a wide range of climates, including areas north of the Arctic Circle, can be attributed to its unique reproductive adaptation from which it gets its name. ‘Viviparous’ means ‘giving live birth,’ which this lizard does in colder parts of its range, as opposed to laying eggs. This strategy allows the embryos to develop inside the mother’s body, providing them with warmth and protection until they are ready to be born, a significant advantage in cooler environments.

The appearance of viviparous lizards is highly variable, with colors ranging from greens and browns to grays, often with patterns of spots and stripes that provide excellent camouflage against their natural habitat. These patterns are not just for disguise; they also play a role in social signaling and thermoregulation.

Tiny scales cover their skin, sometimes giving off a shimmering effect in the sunlight. This is particularly useful when basking, as the lizards rely on sun exposure to maintain their body temperature. Despite their name, some populations of viviparous lizards in warmer areas are oviparous, laying eggs instead of giving birth to live young.

The diet of the viviparous lizard primarily consists of a variety of invertebrates, including cicadas, spiders, and mealworms. Their diet reflects their role as pest controllers, contributing to the balance of their ecosystems.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Albania
2018
Austria
2018
Belarus
2018
Belgium
2018
Bosnia And Herz.
2018
Bulgaria
2018
China
2018
Heilongjiang, Nei Mongol, Xinjiang
Croatia
2018
Czechia
2018
Denmark
2018
Estonia
2018
Finland
2018
France
2018
Germany
2018
Greece
2018
Presence Uncertain
Hungary
2018
Ireland
2018
Italy
2018
Japan
2018
Kazakhstan
2018
Latvia
2018
Lithuania
2018
Luxembourg
2018
Moldova
2018
Mongolia
2018
Montenegro
2018
Netherlands
2018
North Macedonia
2018
Norway
2018
Poland
2018
Romania
2018
Russia
2018
Serbia
2018
Slovakia
2018
Slovenia
2018
Spain
2018
Sweden
2018
Switzerland
2018
Ukraine
2018
United Kingdom
2018

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (szie) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No