Iberian rock lizard (Iberolacerta monticola)

Iberian rock lizard basking in sun
Loading more images and videos...

Iberian rock lizard fact file

Iberian rock lizard description

GenusIberolacerta (1)

Belonging to the Lacertidae family, sometimes called the true lizards, the Iberian rock lizard has a robust, flattened body with long limbs, long toes (3), and a tail which is about twice as long as the snout-vent length (2). Male and female Iberian rock lizards differ markedly in their appearance (4); females have brown upperparts and pale green bellies (4), while males may be either bright green or dull brown, with the bright green males tending to be both larger and older (5). Some older males may also have some blue spots on the edges of the scales at the sides of the abdomen (4).

Archaeolocerta monticola, Lacerta monticola.
Lagartija Serrana.
Snout-vent length: 8 cm (2)

Iberian rock lizard biology

Iberian rock lizards are only active between late February and October, spending the cooler winter months hibernating. During this short period of activity, the lizards must find a mate and breed. The exact period of mating activity varies between populations, with those inhabiting the harsh, mountainous environment breeding much later than those living in the milder climate of the coastal areas. In the mountains, time is even more limited and males tend to commence mating as soon as females become active after the winter (4). Aggressive encounters are often observed between males at this time, as they attempt to claim a mate, particularly between the larger, older green males (5).

Female Iberian rock lizards lay one to two clutches of eggs each year, although only the largest females seem able to lay two clutches. The clutches, consisting of four to nine eggs, begin hatching in August, and hatching continues until the end of October (4). Female Iberian rock lizards become sexually mature at an age of around two or three years, at which point females measure between 52.4 and 56.0 millimetres and males are between 50.7 and 51.8 millimetres in length (4).


Iberian rock lizard range

The Iberian rock lizard occurs in Spain and Portugal, where two subspecies are currently recognized. Iberolacerta monticola monticola is restricted to the Serra da Estrela of Portugal, while Iberolacerta monticola cantabrica is distributed across a much wider area in northwest Spain including the Cantabrian Mountains and Galicia (6) (7).


Iberian rock lizard habitat

In most areas, the Iberian rock lizard inhabits rocky, damp, mountainous habitat, where it occurs close to the tree-line in areas of scrub and boulders, at altitudes up to 2,000 metres (1). However, the Iberian rock lizard is not exclusively a mountain-dwelling species as it also occurs at sea level in Galicia, in coastal lowland forest, sometimes close to streams (1).


Iberian rock lizard status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Iberian rock lizard threats

Some populations of the Iberian rock lizard are believed to be declining which, in combination with its small and highly fragmented distribution, has led to this species being considered Vulnerable to extinction. The main threat causing this fall in numbers is habitat loss; a result of fires, conversion of land to agriculture and forestry, and development for tourism (1).


Iberian rock lizard conservation

The Iberian rock lizard occurs in the Serra da Estrela Natural Park, Portugal and in a number of protected areas in the Cantabrian Mountains, Spain (1), and it also receives protection through its listing on Annex II of the Bern Convention (1) (8). In addition, an action plan for this species is being developed in Portugal (1).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.


This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk


Hibernation is a winter survival strategy in which the animal passes the winter in a resting state. This period of inactivity is characterised by specific biological and biochemical changes including lowered blood pressure and respiration rate. In reptiles, this is also known as brumation.
Snout-vent length
A standard measurement of body length of reptiles. The measurement is from the tip of the nose (snout) to the anus (vent), and excludes the tail.
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.


  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2008)
  2. Arnold, N. and Ovenden, D. (2002) A Field Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Britain and Europe. HarperCollins Publishers, London.
  3. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. Rúa, M. and Galán, P. (2003) Reproductive characteristics of a lowland population of an alpine lizard: Lacerta monticola (Squamata, Lacertidae) in north-west Spain. Animal Biology, 53(4): 347 - 366.
  5. Aragón, O., López, P. and Martín, J. (2004) The ontogeny of spatio-temporal tactics and social relationships of adult male Iberian rock lizards, Lacerta monticola. Ethology, 110: 1001 - 1019.
  6. Carranza, S., Arnold, E.N. and Amat, F. (2004) DNA phylogeny of Lacerta (Iberolacerta) and other lacertine lizards (Reptilia: Lacertidae): did competition cause long-term mountain restriction?. Systematics and Biodiversity, 2(1): 57 - 77.
  7. Mayer, W. and Arribas, O. (2003) Phylogenetic relationships of the European lacertid genera Archaeolacerta and Iberolacerta and their relationships to some other ‘Archaeolacertae’ (sensu lato) from Near East, derived from mitochondrial DNA sequences. Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research, 41(3): 157 - 161.
  8. Bern Convention (May, 2008)

Image credit

Iberian rock lizard basking in sun  
Iberian rock lizard basking in sun

© Philippe Clement / naturepl.com

Nature Picture Library
5a Great George Street
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 117 911 4675
Fax: +44 (0) 117 911 4699


Link to this photo

Arkive species - Iberian rock lizard (Iberolacerta monticola) Embed this Arkive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to Arkive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about



MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite Arkive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!


Back To Top