7 things you never knew about the sand lizard

Discover fascinating facts about the sand lizard, one of the UK's rarest reptiles.

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Sand lizard

Sand lizard illustration © Felicity Cole

 

1 Far and wide

Britain's sand lizards are at the extreme western edge of a range that stretches to Mongolia and China in the east, north into Sweden and south to Greece and Georgia. 

 

2 Long and strong

These stocky, muscular reptiles can reach 21cm in length - about half as long again as our only other native four-legged terrestrial reptile, the common lizard.

 

3 Living the dry life

Sand lizards require sun-warmed patches of bare sand or soil in which to incubate their eggs. In Britain they are restricted to heaths and dunes in south and north-west England and north Wales. 

 

Sand lizard spotted in Dorset © Sandra Standbridge / Getty

 

4 Coll-only

In 1970, scientists released 39 sand lizards on the Isle of Coll in the Inner Hebrides to test whether they could survive so far north. They could, and their descendants now comprise Scotland's only population.

 

5 Name games 

In his book Lives of British Lizards, poet and naturalist Colin Simms nicknamed the sand lizard and common lizard The Aristocrat and The Commoner, respectively.

 

6 Colour codes 

A sand lizard's brown body is decorated with eye-like black blotches with white centres. Males turn a vivid green along their flanks during the breeding season. The greenest males enjoy the highest reproductive success.

 

A male sand lizard warming up in the sunshine © Sandra Standbridge / Getty

 

7 Hotting up 

Sand lizards emerge from hibernation around late March and early April. Males appear first because they are infertile until they have basked in the sun for a few days.

 

8 Egg laying

Sand lizards are the only native UK lizard species to lay eggs (oviparity). Both slow worms and common lizards give birth to live young.

 

Read more wildlife facts and news in BBC Wildlife Magazine. Take a look inside the current issue, and find out how to subscribe

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