Lacerta vivipera - Viviparous lizard:

Lacerta_vivipera1_IW.jpg (67776 bytes) Lacerta_vivipera2_IW.jpg (52880 bytes)

Summary Information
Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Reptilia / Squamata / Lacertidae / Lacerta / Species
Alternative Names
  • Common lizard
  • Lézard vivipare (French)
  • Waldeidechse (German)
Description Length: Snout-vent maximum 6.5cm B159

Tail: 1.25-2.0 x snout-vent length B159

Birth: 3.7-4.7cm (head-body length 1.72.2cm, tail length 2.0-2.5cm).B160

Entering first hibernation: total length up to 7.0-8.0cm (head-body length 2.3-3.3cm, tail 4.7-5.7mm) B160

End summer of year after birth: Males 10.8cm (head-body length 4.3cm, tail 6.5cm); females 10.9cm (head-body length 4.4cm, tail 6.5cm) B160


General description:

  • Long-bodied lizard, with minimal dorso-ventral flattening, short legs, small rather rounded well-defined head, thick neck and thick tail. Collar is distinctly serrated. Back scales are large, with 25 to 37 scales across the back in the mid-body. Large scales on top of head and on abdomen. Large ventral scales are in six rows across the lizard and in 24 to 30 rows down the body (more in female than in male). Femoral pores are present on the ventral side of the upper leg. 28-35 dorsal scales across middle of body. B159, B160
  • Male has a larger head than female, a relatively shorter body and better developed femoral pores. The tail base is swollen in the breeding season. B159
  • Juveniles have a relatively larger and more rounded head than do adults, with larger eyes; the tail is shorter. B159


  • Adult: Variable. Overall brown, sometimes grey or olive.B159
  • Female: Dark vertebral stripe, dark sides, commonly a number of light streaks, particularly dorso-lateral, sometimes scattered spots - light, dark or ocelli (dark with pale centre). Ventral: throat white/bluish, abdomen may be white, yellow, orange or red; sometimes numerous dark spots.B159
  • Males: Vertebral stripe uncommon, ocelli better developed. Ventral surface usually has numerous dark spots.B159
  • Juvenile: Much darker than adults; almost blackish-bronze B159; Sometimes blackish at birth, by one week (and often from birth) dorsal bronze-brown, ventral greyish-black; back and sides may have gold speckling. Develop adult pattern quite early (B160)
  • Variations: very variable even within one population. May be almost uniform in colour or with heavy striping or ocellations. Background colour occasionally yellow, greenish or black. B159
  • Melanistic individuals not uncommon B160

Similar species and distinguishing features:

  • In UK: distinguished from Lacerta agilis by less robust appearance, smaller shallower head, lack of vertebral band of narrow scales, lesser overlap on ventral scales and different patterning. B159
Range and Habitat Range:
  • Most of Europe, also eastwards through northern Asia to Pacific coast and Sakhalin. B159, B160
  • Within Europe: Present in Britain and Ireland, and north into Scandinavia. South as far as northern Spain, northern Italy, southern Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. Not found in Mediterranean area. B159
  • In Britain: widespread England, Scotland and Wales; also found in Ireland. B160


  • Humid environments. Usually ground-dwelling, does climb mainly in vegetation.B159
  • In grass or among other dense herbaceous plants. May be found in open woodland, field edges, heaths, bogs, grassland, sand-dunes, sea cliffs, hedgebanks, railway embankments, gardens. B159
  • In south of range often montane (up to 3000m in Alps) and mainly in damper environments e.g. alpine meadows, moist ditches, marshes, rice fields, edges of damp woodland. B159, B160
  • In Britain: hedgerows, heaths, commons, wastelands, open woodland, gardens, bogs, coastal sand dunes, mountainous areas B160
Further Information Activity:
  • Mainly found on ground but do climb, mainly in vegetation. B159;
  • Excellent climber, including up smooth walls.
  • Swims well and may enter water to escape predators.
  • Active, proceeding mainly by series of short dashes.
  • Bask in sun, sometimes large numbers congregating in a suitable spot, but avoid excessive heat.



  • Ovo-viviparous (usually produce live young). Eggs sometimes laid in Pyranees and Massif Centrale B159, B160
  • Mating: April-May. Fighting occurs between males. Mating may last 5-30 minutes, with male holding female on flank. B160
  • Gestation: approximately three months B160
  • Young born end June to end August or even early September in a cold summer; most in July, B160. Usually female chooses moist place, makes cavity, deposits young and conceals them. May be several days between birth of first and last young.
  • Hatching: May hatch immediately after deposited, or not for some days; usually within one hour. Rupture membrane by thrusts of head. Shed egg tooth soon after birth (e.g. within one day) B160
  • Sexual maturity: Males may be sexually mature by 22 months (B160)


  • Starts mid October but later for juveniles than for adults.
  • Emerge usually March, sometimes February, with males and juveniles emerging earlier than adult females B160

No of eggs/young: up to 11 B159; at least 4, average 5-8 (B160)

Skin shedding:

  • At intervals, usually in pieces (B160)


  • Mainly invertebrates B159;
  • Adult and larval insects (including e.g. caterpillars, flies, grasshoppers), spiders, also centipedes, worms B160.


  • Actively hunt B159;
  • Will enter water to catch prey such as insects.B160
  • Juveniles feed within few hours of birth B160

Organisations (UK Contacts):

Electronic Library (further reading):

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General Legislation:

  • This species is listed on Schedule 5 (Protected animals) of the LUK2 - Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 of the United Kingdom. (W5.Oct01). (L. vivipara - Section 9(1) "killing and injuring" and 9(5) "sale" only)

Individual techniques:

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