Pyrenean rock lizard (Iberolacerta bonnali)

Pyrenean rock lizard on rock
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Pyrenean rock lizard fact file

Pyrenean rock lizard description

GenusIberolacerta (1)

A small-sized, mountain-dwelling reptile, the Pyrenean rock lizard (Iberolacerta bonnali) is a robust species, with short, fat limbs, a pointed head and long toes (3) (4). Somewhat variable in colour (5), the Pyrenean rock lizard is generally greyish or greyish-brown, sometimes with hints of olive-green (2) (4). The head and sides are usually darker. Two lines of spots run along the back, and a band is sometimes also visible along the lower portion of the flanks, often made up of a series of dark brown spots (2). The Pyrenean rock lizard may have lighter coloured scales scattered over the back and tail (4). The underside is generally light yellow to creamy-white, sometimes with a few dark spots (2) (4). The inside of the legs may sometimes appear light yellow (2).

Juvenile Pyrenean rock lizards are usually uniform grey or greyish-brown on the back and tail, occasionally with some darker markings, while the belly is white with dark spots. On rare occasions the tail may have a bluish colouration (2) (3).

Lacerta bonnali.
Lagartija Pirenaica.
Male average snout-vent length: 5.21 cm (2)
Female average snout-vent length: 5.50 cm (2)

Pyrenean rock lizard biology

The Pyrenean rock lizard has a very short annual activity period, determined by the duration of snow cover and the number of daylight hours. In general, the Pyrenean rock lizard emerges when the snow melts, usually around the second half of May. It remains active throughout the summer months, with adults returning to hibernate during the second half of September and juveniles returning in the first half of October (3) (4) (5). The Pyrenean rock lizard basks in the sun to stay warm, but generally avoids the hottest parts of the day when it will retreat under stones or into vegetation (4) (5).

This species’ diet usually consists of grasshoppers, ladybirds, bees and spiders, which it catches by actively searching on the ground. The Pyrenean rock lizard typically hunts around rocky ledges near to meadows and streams where its invertebrate prey is most abundant (2)

Mating begins shortly after the emergence of the adult Pyrenean rock lizards from their wintering sites. An oviparous species, the Pyrenean rock lizard usually lays 3 eggs, although the clutch size may range between 2 and 16. The female typically lays the single clutch of eggs under medium-sized stones around the end of June to the beginning of July, and the eggs are incubated for around 34 days. Hatchlings begin to emerge from mid-August. Juvenile Pyrenean rock lizards do not reach sexual maturity until around 4 years old (2) (3) (4).


Pyrenean rock lizard range

The Pyrenean rock lizard is endemic to the Central Pyrenees Mountains of France and Spain (1) (2) (5).


Pyrenean rock lizard habitat

Restricted to theharsh, rocky mountain climate of the Pyrenees, the Pyrenean rock lizard inhabits alpine and subalpine habitats, including rocky slopes, outcrops and scree (1) (2) (5). It is usually found in fairly sheltered habitats (3), and may often be found close to alpine meadows, especially near lakes and mountain streams. It occurs between elevations of 1,580 and 3,060 metres (1) (2)


Pyrenean rock lizard status

The Pyrenean rock lizard is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened


Pyrenean rock lizard threats

It is likely that the Pyrenean rock lizard will be significantly impacted by climate change (1). A major threat to biodiversity in the Iberian Peninsula, climate change is likely to have serious impacts on the distribution patterns of many of the endemic amphibians and reptiles in the region, in particular for species with a high altitude distribution such as the Pyrenean rock lizard (6).

This species is also potentially threatened by overgrazing of its habitat by livestock, and by the destruction and fragmentation of its habitat due to human developments, including tourist resorts, road construction, hydroelectric projects and mining (1) (2).


Pyrenean rock lizard conservation

The Pyrenean rock lizard in listed on Appendix III of the Bern Convention, which aims to conserve the wild flora and fauna of Europe and their natural habitats (1) (3) (7). This species is found in a number of national parks, reserves and other protected areas, including Ordesa-Monte Perdido and Aigüestortes-Estany de Sant Maurici National Parks, the Biosphere Reserve of Ordesa-Viñamala and the the Natural Park of Posets-Maladeta in Spain (1) (2).

Protected areas have long been considered one of the most effective tools to conserve biodiversity, but their effectiveness in securing species under rapid climate change is uncertain (6). In total, around three-quarters of the Pyrenean rock lizards range is afforded some level of protection by inclusion in a park, reserve or protected area (2).


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A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones), echinoderms, and others.
Ovovivipary is a method of reproduction whereby the egg shell is weakly formed and young hatch inside the female; they are nourished by their yolk sac and then ‘born’ live.


  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2011)
  2. Arribas, O. (2009) Lagartija pirenaica - Iberolacerta bonnali. In: Salvador, A., Marco, A. (Eds.) Enciclopedia Virtual de los Vertebrados Españoles. Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, Madrid.
  3. Arribas, O.J. and Galán, P. (2005) Reproductive characteristics of the Pyrenean high-mountain lizards: Iberolacerta aranica (Arribas, 1993), I. aurelioi (Arribas, 1994) and I.bonnali (Lantz, 1927). Animal Biology, 55: 163-190.
  4. Reptiles and Amphibians of France - Pyrenean rock lizard (April, 2011)
  5. Losange. (2008) Amphibiens et reptiles. Editions Artémis. Chamalières, France. 
  6. Carvalho, S.B., Brito, J.C., Crespo, E.J. and Possingham, H.P. (2010) From climate change predictions to actions – conserving vulnerable animal groups in hotspots at a regional scale. Global Change Biology, 16(12): 3257-3270.
  7. Council of Europe: Bern Convention (April, 2011)

Image credit

Pyrenean rock lizard on rock  
Pyrenean rock lizard on rock

© Pascal Benito

Pascal Benito


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