Gran Canaria giant lizard (Gallotia stehlini)

Gran Canaria giant lizard from behind
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Gran Canaria giant lizard fact file

Gran Canaria giant lizard description

GenusGallotia (1)

As its name suggests, the Gran Canaria giant lizard (Gallotia stehlini) is a large species of lizard endemic to the Canary Island of Gran Canaria (1). It is the largest species of the genus Gallotia, the members of which are found only on the Canary Islands (2).

The Gran Canaria giant lizard is reddish-brown to dark grey, and sometimes has lighter spots present on its sides (3) (4). The scales of its back are strongly keeled, or ridged, and it has a long, tapering tail (3). The adult male Gran Canaria giant lizard is generally larger and darker than the female, with a larger head, jowls and a distinctive red or orange throat (3) (4) (5).

Lagarto De Gran Canaria.
Snout-vent length: 26.5 cm (2)
Tail length: up to 50 cm (3)
up to 500 g (2)

Gran Canaria giant lizard biology

The Gran Canaria giant lizard is omnivorous, feeding on fruit, flowers, leaves and also insects (3). Other species in the Laceritidae family, or ‘true lizards’, are known to mainly forage for food on the ground, in low shrubs or at the base of trees (6) (7).

When faced with a predator, the most common anti-predator response in the Gran Canaria giant lizard is to quickly flee (8). However, the adult Gran Canaria giant lizard will sometimes use a threat display, facing a potential predator with its mouth open while hissing (8). This display is though to advertise its powerful jaws to potential predators (8).

The Gran Canaria giant lizard is known to reach sexual maturity at around three or four years of age (4) (7). This species is oviparous, and the female can lay between 4 and 16 eggs per clutch, with the number of eggs produced being related to body size (3) (7). The eggs take around 8 to 10 weeks to hatch (4).

The Gran Canaria giant lizard is known to live for 11 years or more (4) (7).


Gran Canaria giant lizard range

The Gran Canaria giant lizard is endemic to the island of Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands, where it occurs at elevations of up to 1,850 metres (1).

There is also an introduced population of the Gran Canaria giant lizard on the island of Fuerteventura (1).


Gran Canaria giant lizard habitat

The Gran Canaria giant lizard occurs in a range of habitats, including shrubland, areas of open land, mountains and rocky, humid gorges (1) (3) (4).


Gran Canaria giant lizard status

The Gran Canaria giant lizard is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Gran Canaria giant lizard threats

Although the Gran Canaria giant lizard is generally common, it has been shown to have been impacted by the colonisation of the Canary Islands by humans (1) (9). Along with other Canary Island lizard species, the presence of humans has caused the Gran Canaria giant lizard to undergo a reduction in the maximum size it reaches, with an associated reduction in life expectancy (3) (10).

This species is also thought to be at risk from feral cat populations and from introduced rats (1).


Gran Canaria giant lizard conservation

The Gran Canaria giant lizard is protected by international legislation and also occurs in a number of protected areas (1).


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A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Previously domesticated animals that have returned to a wild state.
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Raised ridges or creases on the scales of reptiles, often along the middle.
Feeding on both plants and animals.
An animal that reproduces by laying eggs, which hatch outside the mother’s body.


  1. IUCN Red List (October, 2011)
  2. Martin, J.E. and Roca, V. (2004) Helminth infracommunities of a population of the Gran Canaria giant lizard Gallotia stehlini. Journal of Helminthology, 78: 319-322.
  3. Gibson, C. (2010) Wild Animals. Dorling Kindersley Publishing, London.
  4. Arnold, E.N. (2002) A Field Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Britain and Europe. Harper Collins Publishers Ltd., London.
  5. Nogales, M., Rando, J.C., Valido, A. and Martín, A. (2001) Discovery of a living giant lizard, genus Gallotia (Reptilia: Lacertidae), from la Gomera, Canary Islands. Herpetologica, 57(2): 169-179.
  6. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  7. Zug, G.R., Vitt, L.J. and Caldwell, J.P. (2001) Herpetology: An Introductory Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles. Academic Press, San Diego and London.
  8. Márquez, R. and Cejudo, D. (2000) Defensive behaviour as an escape strategy in four species of Gallotia (Sauria, Lacertidae) from the Canary Islands (Spain). Copeia, 2: 601-605.
  9. Cejudo, D. and Márquez, R. (2001) Sprint performance in the lizards Gallotia simonyi and Gallotia stehlini (Lacertidae): Implications for species management. Herpetologica, 57(1): 87-98.
  10. Barahona, F., Evans, S.E., Mateo, J.A., García-Márquez, M. and López-Jurado, L.F. (2000) Endemism, gigantism and extinction in island lizards: the genus Gallotia on the Canary Islands. Journal of Zoology, 250: 373-388.

Image credit

Gran Canaria giant lizard from behind  
Gran Canaria giant lizard from behind

© Roger Tidman /

NHPA/Photoshot Holdings Ltd
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