Southeastern Spain, 10.2016 – 11.2017

In autumn 2016 and autumn 2017, we had the opportunity to visit southeastern Spain. Our goals were the lizards of the genus Podarcis in the Betic mountain range, where several genetic lineages meet. Our photo documentation shows the hidden diversity of this area.

  • Linosa, 12.-17.06.2018

    Linosa, 12.-17.06.2018

    The Robinson Crusoe Project

  • Kastellorizo & Nisyros, 12.-21.05.2018

    Kastellorizo & Nisyros, 12.-21.05.2018

    At the edge of Europe (and beyond)

  • Milos & Serifos, 14. – 21.04.2018

    Milos & Serifos, 14. – 21.04.2018

    Spring trip to the Western Cyclades

  • Southeastern Spain, 10.2016 – 11.2017

    Southeastern Spain, 10.2016 – 11.2017

    Betic lizards – a photo documentation

  • Northwestern Spain, 16.-23.9.2017

    Northwestern Spain, 16.-23.9.2017

    Reptile Rallye on the Iberian Peninsula

  • Ionian Islands, 25.5.-5.6.2017

    Ionian Islands, 25.5.-5.6.2017

    Cruising through Ulysses’ homeland

  • Portugal, 14. – 21.4.2017

    Portugal, 14. – 21.4.2017

    Lizard safari at the Atlantic coast

  • Rhodos & Kastellorizo, 27.3. – 2.4.2017

    Rhodos & Kastellorizo, 27.3. – 2.4.2017

    Season Opening 2017

  • Pyrenees, 2008 - 2016

    Pyrenees, 2008 - 2016

    Searching for Pyrenean lizards - third time's a charm!

  • Sicily & Aeolian Islands, 26.5. – 6.6.2016

    Sicily & Aeolian Islands, 26.5. – 6.6.2016

    Mission Volcano! Smoking mountains and rare reptiles

  • Astypalaia & Naxos, 25.3.-3.4.2016

    Astypalaia & Naxos, 25.3.-3.4.2016

    Hellas reloaded – Back in Europe’s biodiversity lab

  • Spain, 29.8.-11.9.2015

    Spain, 29.8.-11.9.2015

    Biodiversity on the south-eastern tangent

  • Montenegro, 2. – 11.7.2015

    Montenegro, 2. – 11.7.2015

    Lizard Safari in the mountains of Montenegro

  •  Malta, 3. – 6.4.2015

    Malta, 3. – 6.4.2015

    The exclusive Podarcis filfolensis Home Story!

  • Oman, 6.–15.3.2015

    Oman, 6.–15.3.2015

    Adventures in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula

  • Central Spain, 29.8. - 14.9.2014

    Central Spain, 29.8. - 14.9.2014

    14 days in the heat of Castile

  • Lefkada, Kefalonia & Akarnania, 24.5. - 3.6.2014

    Lefkada, Kefalonia & Akarnania, 24.5. - 3.6.2014

    Reptile adventures in Western Greece

  • Mallorca / Alicante - 15.-23.03.2014

    Mallorca / Alicante - 15.-23.03.2014

    2014 Season Kick-off with 16 reptile species

  • Corsica, 07.-17.09.2013

    Corsica, 07.-17.09.2013

    Mountains, sea and rock lizards

  • Portugal, 13. - 20.07.2013

    Portugal, 13. - 20.07.2013

    Lizard hunting in Central Portugal

  • Romania, 24.05. - 03.06.2013

    Romania, 24.05. - 03.06.2013

    Herping adventures from the Black Sea coast to the Iron Gate

  • Menorca, 17. - 24.03.2013

    Menorca, 17. - 24.03.2013

    Visiting the Balearic lizards

  • Peloponnese, 20. - 27.10.2012

    Peloponnese, 20. - 27.10.2012

    Autumn trip on Peloponnese

  • Montenegro, 27.07. - 04.08.2012

    Montenegro, 27.07. - 04.08.2012

    Summer trip in the mountains of Montenegro

  • Skyros & Evia, 26.05. - 04.06.2012

    Skyros & Evia, 26.05. - 04.06.2012

    Our search for the legendary giant lizards...

  • Crete, 06. - 13.04.2012

    Crete, 06. - 13.04.2012

    Searching for flowers and lizards on Crete...

  • Andalucia, 10. - 18.03.2012

    Andalucia, 10. - 18.03.2012

    A hot week full of herping highlights in Southwestern Andalucia

  • 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.

  • 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

  • Rhodos & Kastellorizo, 12. - 19.03.2011

    Rhodos & Kastellorizo, 12. - 19.03.2011

    Trip to the easternmost island of Greece...

  • 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

  • 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

  • Northern Peloponnese, 3.-11.4.2010

    Northern Peloponnese, 3.-11.4.2010

    Four Podarcis species in one area!

  • Northern Greece, 01. - 15. 06.2009

    Northern Greece, 01. - 15. 06.2009

    Great trip to the Pindos mountains...

  • Sicily, 28.03. - 04.04.2009

    Sicily, 28.03. - 04.04.2009

    Orchid trip to eastern Sicily

  • Spain, November 2008 / February 2009

    Spain, November 2008 / February 2009

    Lizards in the Alicante Province

  • Samos, September 2008 / 2009

    Samos, September 2008 / 2009

    Chamaeleons, Trachylepis and beautiful beaches...

  • Eifel region

    Eifel region

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

  • The peak area of Sierra Nevada, the highest mountain chain of the Betic range.

    For southeastern Spain, three wall lizard species have been described so far: Podarcis vaucheri, Podarcis virescens and Podarcis hispanicus. Furthermore, there are some lineages mentioned in literature which have no taxonomic description so far. To demonstrate this hidden diversity is the purpose of this photo documentation. At the first glance, all lizards of this documentation may look quite similar. But the second look reveals specific external characters as well as different habitat preferences. These quite subtle differences make wall lizards from southern Spain a fascinating subject for field studies.

    Our documentation is not structured in chronological order like our „trip reports“, but by regions. For our work, in particular the spots mentioned at KALIONTZOPOULOU et al. (2011) provided important indications for our travel destinations.

  • Overview of the visited areas

    Sierra Nevada

    In Sierra Nevada, Podarcis vaucheri seems to be widespread. This species is quite variable and looks rather different in southeastern Spain, compared to western Andalusia. Anyhow, the dark flanks and the lack of a dark vertebral line seem to be general characteristics of this species. At the southern slopes of Sierra Nevada we found several specimens at a creek near the village of Lanjarón. Juveniles were even found up to 2000 m altitude at rather cold temperatures. At the northern slope of this mountain chain we came across the same lizards near the Pradollano Ski Center – also at approx. 2000 m altitude

    KALIONTZOPOULOU et al. (2011) point out that, besides of the known lineage of Podarcis vaucheri, another genetic lineage occurs in eastern Andalusia, which they refer to as „Podarcis vaucheri southern-central Spain“. However, there seem to be no obvious morphological differences. Furthermore, so far only few spots for this lineage are known. Therefore, this lineage is regarded as conspecific with Podarcis vaucheri in this documentation.

    A remarkable lizard spot is the village of La Calahorra in the northern Sierra Nevada: It has the southernmost record of a genetic lineage called „hispanica sensu stricto“ at KALIONTZOPOULOU et al. (2011). It cannot be completely ruled out that this lineage marks a so far undescribed taxon. However, as far as we know, it seems to be most likely that this lineage is conspecific with Podarcis liolepis. For the sake of simplicity, we regard this lineage as Podarcis liolepis in our documentation. At La Calahorra, though, we only came across juveniles, due to sustaining late summer drought – clear identification turned out to be impossible.

    Surprisingly, in the neighbourhood village of Aldeire, we recorded different species: Along a small creek, we found Podarcis vaucheri and Podarcis hispanicus in direct syntopy. At this place, it cannot ruled out that these species hybridize occasionally. At the nearby Puerto de la Ragua, we once again came across Podarcis vaucheri basking in > 2000 m altitude. All in all, it seems that this area is a contact zone of three genetic lineages.

  • The village of Lanjarón at the southern slopes of Sierra Nevada: Home of Podarcis vaucheri

  • Juvenile Podarcis vaucheri from Lanjarón

  • Podarcis vaucheri: characteristics are the dark flanks and the missing vertebral line.

  • Adult Podarcis vaucheri with characteristic back pattern

  • The southern slopes of Sierra Nevada at approx. 2000 m altitude:

  • Despite of cool temperatures, juveniles of Podarcis vaucheri were still active.

  • Despite of cool temperatures, juveniles of Podarcis vaucheri were still active.
    At Pradollano Ski Center: Also in this area we found Podarcis vaucheri.

  • Adult Podarcis vaucheri: The „dotted“ pattern of this specimen resembles to Podarcis virescens.

  • Podarcis vaucheri – male

  • Juvenile Podarcis vaucheri at Pradollano

  • Podarcis vaucheri – female

  • Habitat of Podarcis vaucheri at Pradollano

  • The castle of La Calahorra: According to literature, habitat of Podarcis liolepis

  • Here, we only found juveniles – exact species identification turned out to be impossible.

  • The surroundings of Aldeire have plenty of water even in autumn.

  • Podarcis hispanicus in syntopy with:

  • Podarcis vaucheri

  • Podarcis vaucheri – hybridization with Podarcis hispanicus cannot be ruled out at this spot.

  • Podarcis vaucheri – portrait

  • Habitat at Puerto de la Ragua

  • Podarcis vaucheri with yellow underside at 2000 m altitude

    Province of Jaén

    The province of Jaén is dominated by the monocultures of olive plantations. In between, like islands, isolated mountain ranges serve as refugia for wild animals and plants. The Sierra Mágina is located east of the regional capital Jaén, with an altitude of > 2000 meters. Here, we came across Podarcis vaucheri.
    Some 40 kilometers to the east, the Sierra de Cazorla is habitat for different lizard species: The dry southern slopes are inhabited by Podarcis hispanicus; the mountains, in particular along the Guadalquivir river shore, are dwelled by Podarcis virescens. In the high altitudes of these mountains, finally another species occurs: Podarcis liolepis (it is actually the same genetic lineage “hispanica sensu stricto” which also occurs in La Calahorra / Sierra Nevada). Hence, the province of Jaén is inhabited by four Podarcis species. Anyhow, we didn’t notice direct syntopy of different species – it seems, that each species has its own habitat preferences.

  • Pico de Mágina – home of:

  • Podarcis vaucheri – adult specimen with "characteristic" coloration: green back and grey head.

  • Podarcis vaucheri – juvenile

  • Sierra Mágina – in the far back you can spot the Sierra de Cazorla.

  • Sierra de Cazorla: The area of Guadalquivir river source at 1400 m altitude: this area has lots of snow in winter. It is populated by Podarcis liolepis.

  • Podarcis liolepis – it can be distinguished from Podarcis virescens and Podarcis vaucheri by its distinct dark vertebral line. Furthermore, this species shows big masseteric scales and short snouts. However, the mentioned characteristics are no hard differentiation criteria – we observed a lot of exceptions (see below). There seem to be no hard criteria to identify these lizards by external characters.

  • Podarcis liolepis – juveniles frequently show light dorsolateral lines, which gives them a „striped appearance”.

  • Podarcis virescens from Guadalquivir River shore

  • Podarcis virescens: female with characteristic yellow underside of the tail.

  • Podarcis virescens: This species can be distinguished from Podarcis liolepis by the lack of a distinct vertebral line.

  • Podarcis hispanicus from Tiscar at the southern slopes of Sierra de Cazorla: note the characteristic bifurcated vertebral line.

  • Another lizard from Sierra de Cazorla: Algyroides marchi (juvenile)

  • Foxes are quite tame in Sierra de Cazorla: They have specialized in begging tourists for food.


    The village of Nerpio in the southern province of Albacete is situated in 1000 m altitude and characterized by cool climate. Eastwards a plateau of 1000 m altitude extends to Caravaca de la Cruz in the province of Murcia. In this area we found lizards which probably also should be referred to Podarcis liolepis and which turned out to look highly variable: juveniles frequently showed a distinct “stripe pattern”. However, the adults had rather blurred dot patterns. We didn’t notice other Podarcis species in this area – Presumably, Podarcis hispanicus inhabits lower altitudes.

  • The surroundings of Nerpio have lots of water

  • Podarcis liolepis from Nerpio – juvenile

  • Podarcis liolepis from Nerpio – adult specimen with blurred pattern. Adults frequently show a yellow, but never orange throat. This separates them from Podarcis liolepis in northeastern Spain, which frequently shows orange throats.

  • Mountain plateau at Zaén de Arriba (Murcia)

  • Psammodromus edwarsianus

  • Podarcis liolepis from Zaén de Arriba – juvenile

  • Podarcis liolepis – adult specimen with dot pattern

  • At Zaén de Arriba

    Sierra Espuña

    The Sierra Espuña is an isolated mountain range southwest of the city of Murcia with an altitude of about 1500 m. In the peak area of these mountains we noticed Podarcis hispanicus and Podarcis liolepis in direct syntopy. Here, we even couldn’t find different (micro-)habitat preferences: both species inhabit sunny, exposed drystone walls and rocks. Occasionally, we noticed direct encouters of both species. In this area, juveniles of Podarcis liolepis showed the characteristic stripe pattern, whereas adults showed rather blurred patterns (like In the Nerpio area).

  • Peak area of Sierra Espuña

  • Podarcis liolepis – subadult specimen

  • Podarcis liolepis – adult specimen with blurred pattern

  • Podarcis hispanicus – juvenile with bluish tail

  • Podarcis hispanicus – adult specimen: Podarcis hispanicus is characterized by the distinct light dorsolateral lines and the pointed snout.

  • Direkt syntopy of Podarcis liolepis (left) and Podarcis hispanicus (right)

  • Podarcis liolepis – juvenile

  • Timon nevadensis (subadult)

  • Timon nevadensis – adult specimen: These lizards turned out to be extremely shy.


    East of the town of Riópar a lineage can be found which is called „Albacete-Murcia-Type“ at KALIONTZOPOULOU. With regard to external characters, this lineage seems to be identic with Podarcis hispanicus. Therefore, we regard these lizards as conspecific with the latter species in this documentation. They inhabit the dry eastern slopes of the Parque Natural de Los Calares del Mundo y de la Sima. In contrast to this, the surroundings of Riópar are habitat of Podarcis virescens. According to literature, also Podarcis liolepis occurs in this area but we didn’t record this species here.

  • Podarcis hispanicus („Albacete-Murcia Type“) – juvenile

  • Podarcis hispanicus („Albacete-Murcia Type“) – juvenile

  • Podarcis hispanicus („Albacete-Murcia Type“) – adult

  • Podarcis virescens, female

  • Podarcis virescens, male

  • Algyroides marchi: This species isn‘t restricted to habitats near water – this specimen was found on an oak tree on a dry mountain slope.

  • Rhinechis scalaris

  • Psammodromus hispanicus – male: the distribution area of this species, in particular its western distribution limit is poorly known.

  • Psammodromus hispanicus – female with nice greenish stripes.

    Callosa de Segura

    Finally, we want to mention the Sierra de Callosa de Segura in the southern Alicante province: a mountain of 500 m altitude close to the Mediterranean Coast. It is also mentioned in literature as a spot for Podarcis hispanicus – „Albacete-Murcia-Type“. Actually, we found these lizards there (but they also didn’t really differ from “normal” Podarcis hispanicus).

  • Podarcis hispanicus („Albacete-Murcia-Type“)

  • Acanthodactylus erythrurus (subadult) in a coastal habitat south of Callosa de Segura

  • Acanthodactylus erythrurus – juvenile


    Meanwhile, we have a more or less clear picture of the wall lizard species in southeastern Spain. With their detailed work, ANTIGONI KALIONTZOPOULOU, CATARINA PINHO, D. JAMES HARRIS and MIGUEL A. CARRETERO on the one hand and JULIEN P. RENOULT, PHILIPPE GENIEZ und PIERRE-ANDRE CROCHET on the other hand have provided extremely valuable information. Based on these authors’ work (and our own journeys from 2014 – 2017, see also our trip reports from 2014 & 2015), the following map provides an overview of the currently known distribution of the genus Podarcis in southeastern Spain.

  • The distribution of Podarcis hispanicus (sensu lato) in southeastern Spain: Areas marked with brown stripes show the distribution of the lineage called “Podarcis liolepis” in this documentation. (The term “striped morph” refers to the striped pattern of juveniles, “green morph” refers to the greenish form of Podarcis liolepis at the coast south of Valencia).

    The Betic lizards still raise some questions, in particular with regard to the taxonomic status of the specimens which are referred to Podarcis liolepis in this documentation. Maybe they could be described as a different subspecies of Podarcis liolepis. However, these questions are beyond the scope of this photo documentation.


    KALIONTZOPOULOU, A. & PINHO, C. & HARRIS, D.J. & CARRETERO, M.A. (2011) - When cryptic diversity blurs the picture: a cautionary tale from Iberian and North African Podarcis wall lizards. - Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 103: 779–800.