Skyros & Evia, 26.05. - 04.06.2012

It was end of May and we couldn’t resist the call of the Aegean Sea any more. The islands of Skyros and Evia seemed particularly promising because here there are lizard populations whose representatives are characterized by massive body sizes – so we wanted to see these "giants" of Skyros and Evia. Thanks to Lefteris Trakos, Kyriakos Antonopoulos and Werner Mayer.

  • Sicily & Aeolian Islands, 26.5. – 6.6.2016

    Sicily & Aeolian Islands, 26.5. – 6.6.2016

    Mission Volcano! Smoking mountains and rare reptiles

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  • Astypalaia & Naxos, 25.3.-3.4.2016

    Astypalaia & Naxos, 25.3.-3.4.2016

    Hellas reloaded – Back in Europe’s biodiversity lab

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  • Spain, 29.8.-11.9.2015

    Spain, 29.8.-11.9.2015

    Biodiversity on the south-eastern tangent

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  • Montenegro, 2. – 11.7.2015

    Montenegro, 2. – 11.7.2015

    Lizard Safari in the mountains of Montenegro

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  •  Malta, 3. – 6.4.2015

    Malta, 3. – 6.4.2015

    The exclusive Podarcis filfolensis Home Story!

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  • Oman, 6.–15.3.2015

    Oman, 6.–15.3.2015

    Adventures in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula

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  • Central Spain, 29.8. - 14.9.2014

    Central Spain, 29.8. - 14.9.2014

    14 days in the heat of Castile

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  • Lefkada, Kefalonia & Akarnania, 24.5. - 3.6.2014

    Lefkada, Kefalonia & Akarnania, 24.5. - 3.6.2014

    Reptile adventures in Western Greece

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  • Mallorca / Alicante - 15.-23.03.2014

    Mallorca / Alicante - 15.-23.03.2014

    2014 Season Kick-off with 16 reptile species

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  • Corsica, 07.-17.09.2013

    Corsica, 07.-17.09.2013

    Mountains, sea and rock lizards

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  • Portugal, 13. - 20.07.2013

    Portugal, 13. - 20.07.2013

    Lizard hunting in Central Portugal

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  • Romania, 24.05. - 03.06.2013

    Romania, 24.05. - 03.06.2013

    Herping adventures from the Black Sea coast to the Iron Gate

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  • Menorca, 17. - 24.03.2013

    Menorca, 17. - 24.03.2013

    Visiting the Balearic lizards

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  • Peloponnese, 20. - 27.10.2012

    Peloponnese, 20. - 27.10.2012

    Autumn trip on Peloponnese

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  • Montenegro, 27.07. - 04.08.2012

    Montenegro, 27.07. - 04.08.2012

    Summer trip in the mountains of Montenegro

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  • Skyros & Evia, 26.05. - 04.06.2012

    Skyros & Evia, 26.05. - 04.06.2012

    Our search for the legendary giant lizards...

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  • Crete, 06. - 13.04.2012

    Crete, 06. - 13.04.2012

    Searching for flowers and lizards on Crete...

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  • Andalucia, 10. - 18.03.2012

    Andalucia, 10. - 18.03.2012

    A hot week full of herping highlights in Southwestern Andalucia

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  • Northern Spain, 02. - 13.09.2011

    Northern Spain, 02. - 13.09.2011

    Herpetological trip to the northwest of Spain: the mountains west of Leon, the Atlantic coast south of A Coruña and the Picos de Europa.

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  • Aegean Islands, 28.05. - 13.06.2011

    Aegean Islands, 28.05. - 13.06.2011

    Five islands in two weeks: Kythira, Pori, Milos, Kimolos and Sifnos

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  • Rhodos & Kastellorizo, 12. - 19.03.2011

    Rhodos & Kastellorizo, 12. - 19.03.2011

    Trip to the easternmost island of Greece...

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  • Central spain, 25.09. - 03.10.2010

    Central spain, 25.09. - 03.10.2010

    Iberolacertas within Sierra de Gredos, Pena de Francia and Sierra de Guadarrama

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  • Alps, 03. -17.07.2010

    Alps, 03. -17.07.2010

    Our first trip to the Alps led us to the Allgäu area, the Julian Alps and Carinthia

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  • Northern Peloponnese, 3.-11.4.2010

    Northern Peloponnese, 3.-11.4.2010

    Four Podarcis species in one area!

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  • Northern Greece, 01. - 15. 06.2009

    Northern Greece, 01. - 15. 06.2009

    Great trip to the Pindos mountains...

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  • Sicily, 28.03. - 04.04.2009

    Sicily, 28.03. - 04.04.2009

    Orchid trip to eastern Sicily

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  • Samos, September 2008 / 2009

    Samos, September 2008 / 2009

    Chamaeleons, Trachylepis and beautiful beaches...

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  • Spain, November 2008 / February 2009

    Spain, November 2008 / February 2009

    Lizards in the Alicante Province

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  • Eifel region

    Eifel region

    Our local "playground": botanical highlights, meadows with numerous butterflies and some herpetofauna...

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  • Our ferry to Skyros: the legendary beautiful Aegean weather…

    Skyros

    Although our arrival was accompanied by violent thunderstorms in Skyros (we decided not to see this as an omen) the weather calmed down quickly in the coming days – so we were highly motivated to start herping. To our sweet delight it turned out that the island is full of lizards: Podarcis gaigeae, the Skyros Wall Lizard, is apparently not very delicate with regard to its habitat choice.

  • Podarcis gaigeae can be found literally everywhere

  • Skyros town: in this area we found very colourful lizards

  • Male Podarcis gaigeae with distinctive blue flanks...

  • Another male with an almost psychedelic pattern

  • The uni-colour version

  • An animal with orange throat: the colour of the throat - white, yellow or orange - and the role of "genetic drift" has been subject to research on various island populations of Podarcis gaigeae. In our field observations, we found a potpourri of different colour forms everywhere...

  • Foam Bath: For Mauremys rivulata, the water quality seems of minor importance

  • The first snake: Telescopus fallax

  • Another rainy morning we started turning stones and found: Telescopus fallax!

  • This man made wetland contains (besides turtles):

  • Water frogs (Pelophylax sp.)...

  • …and their predators: Natrix natrix persica - the animals seem to tend to melanism on Skyros although this specimen still shows the characteristic persica stripes

  • Of course the area didn’t lack of Podarcis gaigeae

  • In the Aegean Sea, Mediodactylus kotschyi is represented by numerous sub-species which look all the same for us: according to literature, on Skyros a transitional form of Mediodactylus kotschyi schultzewestrumi x saronicus can be found…

  • In this respect, Hemidactylus turcicus is less extravagant: no distinct subspecies on Skyros

  • Close to the geckos we also found – surprise! – another Telescopus fallax

    In the following days sunny weather brought the opportunity for our trip to the "giant lizards": Pafilis et al. (2009) had described the phenomenon of gigantism within the populations on the islets of Lakonisi and Exo Diavatis off the cost of Skyros: On Skyros, the SVL of male Podarcis gaigeae is about 6 cm, on Lakonissi it is > 7 cm and 8.5 cm on Exo Diavatis. Overall, the lizards of Exo Diavatis are almost twice as big as on Skyros. Full of expectations we visited these islands. Thanks to Lefteris Trakos (Skyros Travel + Tourism) for organization and Kyriakos Antonopoulos (Kavos bar / Linaria) for guiding us.

  • Lakonisi islet

  • Landing on Lakonisi – note the numerous seagulls which seem to play a key role in this ecosystem (see Pafilis et al. (2009)): The nesting birds produce guano which promotes plant growth, the plants are food for myriads of insects – plenty of lizard food. As a result, the lizards occur in high population density.

  • Podarcis gaigeae gaigeae: Lakonisi is full of small insects that serve as food for the lizards

  • A male with regenerated tale: According to Pafilis et al. the high population density and intraspecific
    aggression lead to cannibalism – a possible reason for gigantism.

  • Actually, the majority of the animals we observed had regenerated tales – although there are no predators on the island

  • Lizard, attracted by banana

  • High-speed transfer to the next island...

  • Exo Diavatis: obviously, the guano-based community (bird droppings – lush vegetation – lots of insects – high density of lizards) also works on this islet. On Exo Diavatis, even some plant species tend to gigantism and the locals praise the delicious culinary herbs on the islet.

  • A female "giant" lizard (Podarcis gaigeae gaigeae)

  • A male giant - built more robust than its relatives on Skyros

  • They are big but not very fast: this one was relatively easy to catch

  • Some animals showed signs of battle: here a forefoot is missing

  • Those who fail in the struggle for life will be mummified cadavers - predators are missing from Exo Diavatis

  • Mediodactylus kotschyi is also present on Exo Diavatis

  • Birgit and Kyriakos discussing the photo results

    Back on Skyros, we had a day on the beach - but also there, we were surrounded by reptiles...

  • Even the dunes are populated by Podarcis gaigeae

  • A couple of Podarcis gaigeae

  • Lizard on the beach...

  • This wetland is home of:

  • Natrix natrix – as far as we know, there are at least three wetlands with grass snakes on the island

  • Also Lacerta trilineata occurs on Skyros, but less abundant than in other parts of Greece

  • Our daily Telescopus fallax ... We missed the other two snake species on Skyros (Elaphe quatuorlineata, Zamenis situla) as well as Testudo marginata.
    After four days we had to leave Skyros with a heavy heart and took the ferry to Kymi / Evia.

  • Looking back to the Bay of Linaria / Skyros

    Evia

    Northeastern Evia has magnificent landscapes – cliffs, gorges, lush vegetation and the whole scenery is dominated by the Dirfis mountain range (1.700 m). For this mountains, subspecies Lacerta viridis guentherpetersi (Rykena et al. (2002)) has been described, which is built stronger than the nominate form: another "giant". Since we didn’t find these lizards on Mount Ossa in 2009, we wanted to try our luck at the "terra typica” this time. Again, we needed two attempts to get good pictures: at our first visit on Dirfis we were too late – in the heat of the afternoon the lizards weren’t interested in being photographed. Our second try in the early morning hours was more successful.

  • The north coast of Evia with the Dirfis range

  • Mats of Hypericum sp. in the terra typica of Lacerta viridis guentherpetersi at 1000 m altitude

  • Lacerta viridis guentherpetersi or Lacerta trilineata?

  • Podarcis muralis: The animals inhabit the same habitat as the Podarcis erhardii on Dirfis - but different microhabitats. Podarcis muralis were in rather shady, moist places, while Podarcis erhardii apparently prefers the drier places.

  • Pregnant Podarcis muralis

  • On Evia, Podarcis erhardii is represented by subspecies livadiacus, a very nice sub-species of the
    Aegean wall lizard.

  • Another Podarcis erhardii livadiacus - This subspecies seems to prefer mountain habitats: we know about occurrences in the Feneos Basin and Parnon, all located at approx. 1000 m altitude. Howbeit, we didn’t see Podarcis in the lower altitudes on Evia.

  • Lacerta viridis guentherpetersi, second attempt: A female warming up in the morning sun

  • The subspecies guentherpetersi has no blue throat in contrast to the nominate form - it looks like Lacerta trilineata

  • As the temperatures were rising the animals hung around in the shade...

  • Mountain scenery with Iphiclides podalirius

  • Argynnis paphia

  • At lower altitudes Lacerta viridis is replaced by Lacerta trilineata

  • Anax imperator

  • Marumba quercus

  • We would have preferred it alive: Malpolon insignitus. Other traffic victims we saw were Zamenis situla and numerous Pseudopus apodus. Other species seen were Ablepharus kitaibelii and Lissotriton vulgaris. Obviously, Evia has an interesting herpetofauna which would be worthwhile another trip…

  • At our final lazy day we shared a nice beach with Chalcides ocellatus...

    Literature

    Pafilis, P. & Meiri, S. & Foufopoulos, J. & Valakos, E. (2009) - Intraspecific competition and high food availability are associated with insular gigantism in a lizard. - Naturwissenschaften, 96 (9): 1107-1113.

    Runemark, A & Hansson, B & Pafilis, P & Valakos, E & Svensson, E (2010) - Island biology and morphological divergence of the Skyros wall lizard Podarcis gaigeae: a combined role for local selection and genetic drift on color morph frequency divergence? - BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10: 269

    Rykena, S. & Nettmann, H.-K. & Mayer, W. (2002) - Lacerta viridis guentherpetersi ssp. nov., eine neue Unterart der Smaragdeidechse aus Griechenland. - Mertensiella, Rheinbach, 13: 89-97.