|Prof. Dr. Bayram GÖÇMEN|
Zoologist, Herpetologist, Protozoologist/Parasitologist, Nature Photographer
9. LIZARDS IN CYPRUS
9.1. Family: Gekkonidae
Cyrtopodion kotschyi (STEINDACHNER, 1870) (Kotschy’s Gecko)
Current scientific name: Mediodactylus kotschyi
Identification: Total length to 9-10 cm. Pupils vertical. 8-12 longitudinal rows of keeled tubercles on dorsum, continuing on tail, tubercles are longer than wide; toes lack adhesive pads and slender, subdigital scales smooth. The dorsum is light to dark gray with dark zigzagging transverse stripes or maculations. The venter is whitish.
Habitat & Biology: Inhabits rocky-stony places with scanty vegetation, also seen on stone walls and buildings. Partly nocturnal, but also forages in daytime. Feeds on insects and spiders. Can change colour in accordance with the illumination state of the environment. A female lays 1-2 eggs between crevices and cracks of rocks.
Distribution: Its range extends from S Italy and Greece to Aegean islands, Cyprus, Turkey, Syria, Israel, NW Iran and the Transcaucasus region; with a vertical distribution to 2500 m. It is represented with Cyrtopodion kotschyi fitzingeri (Baran-Gruber, 1982), endemic for Cyprus.
Hemidactylus turcicus (LINNAEUS, 1758) (Turkish Gecko)
Identification: Total length up to 9-10 cm. Pupils vertical. On dorsal side, 14-16 longitudinal rows of tubercles present; also above tail, 6-8 rows of tubercles. 7-10 supralabials; preanal pores 4-10, rarely 2. Ventral scales are smooth, those of the medial row, bigger. The dorsum is grayish or light brown, overlaid by irregular, darker blotches. the venter is dirty white.
Habitat & Biology: Lives under stones, in crevices of rocks, in houses and ruins... Feeds on insects and spiders. Largely nocturnal, but may be active by day. A female lays 2 eggs.
Distribution: Known from
Mediterranean and Red Sea coastal regions to India, including Turkey and Cyprus; with a
vertical distribution to 1000 m. Found in all coastal zones of Northern Cyprus. t is
represented with Hemidactylus turcicus turcicus (Baran & Gruber, 1982;
Böhme & Wiedl, 1994; Göçmen et al., 1996a; Baran & Atatür, 1998).
t is represented with Hemidactylus turcicus turcicus (Baran & Gruber, 1982; Böhme & Wiedl, 1994; Göçmen et al., 1996a; Baran & Atatür, 1998).
9.2. Family: Agamidae
Laudakia stellio (LINNAEUS, 1758) (Spiny Lizard)
Current scientific name: Stellagama stellio
Identification: Total length up to 35 cm, or slightly longer. The flat and triangular head is covered with asymmetrically distributed small scales and plates; pupils round; spiny scales on the neck and sides of the head. The dorsum is covered with small and large scales; the tail with rings of spiny scales, two rings forming a segment. Tail does not break easily. The scales under the chin are keeled, those of abdomen smooth. The dorsum is blackish-brown with large yellow blotches. The venter is dirty yellow or yellowish-brown. In males, the throat is gray with a reticulated pattern; some of the dorsal scales may be bright blue.
Habitat & Biology: Frequents stone walls, rocky areas and olive groves, can easily climb both on trees and rocks. Feeds mainly on insects, but can also ingest some plant material. Typically bobs head vertically. A female lays 8-14 eggs.
Distribution: Known from N Africa, SE Europe, Turkey and SW Asia; with a vertical distribution to 1500 m. Encountered everywhere in Cyprus. It is represented with the subspecies L. stellio cypriaca (Daan, 1967), endemic for Cyprus. The status of the Cyprus population has been doubted by Shätti & Sigg (1989). However, Osenegg (1989) and Göçmen et al. (1996a) re-investigated material from Cyprus, Turkey and Syria and concluded that cypriaca is distinct and valid.
9.3. Family: Chamaeleontidae
Chamaeleo chamaeleon (LINNAEUS, 1758) (Mediterranean Chameleon)
Identification: Total length up to 24-30 cm. Quite a different and unmistakable species with a laterally flattened body and characteristic slow movements. The head narrow and high, in adults in the form of a bony helmet. A vertebral ridge formed by enlarged scales. The toes are arranged as two opposed to three (reversing in front and hind feet) so that feet are modified to gripping rather than walking. The eyes fairly big and bulbous, with fused eyelids leaving a small opening for pupil. The eyes can move independently, or together for stereo vision. Tail strongly prehensile. Can change colour rather quickly, the ground colouration may be overlaid by darker or lighter maculations, spots and/or lateral stripes. A medial abdominal yellowish line, extending posteriorly to anus, does not change colour.
Habitat & Biology: Strongly arboreal, moves slowly but easily among twigs and branches by means of its grasping feet and prehensile tail; catching various insect preys with a sticky extensible tongue. A female deposits 20 or more eggs into burrows dug in soil.
Distribution: Known range extends from N Africa and Spain to W Asia; including Turkey and Cyprus with a vertical distribution to 700 m. It is stated that the Cyprus race of this species belongs to C. chamaeleon recticrista (Böhme & Wiedl, 1994; Göçmen et al., 1996a). In spite of Hillenius (1978) who considered it to be a synonym of C. chamaeleon chamaeleon, these authors maintain this trinomial nomenclature. Material from Turkey (Göçmen et al., 1996a) and Grecee (Böhme, 1989; Böhme & Wiedl, 1994), suggest that eastern Mediterrenean specimens attain larger dimensions than western ones (Portugal, Spain). Furthermore, there seem to be slight hemipenial differences between the two groups (Böhme & Wiedl, 1994). Thus, the population of Cyprus belongs to the eastern Mediterranean form, i.e., C. chamaeleon recticrista.
9.4. Family: Lacertidae
Acanthodactylus schreiberi BOULENGER, 1918 (Fringe-toed Lizard)
Identification: Total length up to 15-20 cm. The occipital plate on top of head absent or rudimentary; a longitudinal depression on the anterior part of head. Subocular usually extends down to the edge of the mouth. 71-108 rows of scales around mid-trunk; femoral pores between 19-29. The lateral edges of the toes with fringe-like short spines, especially obvious at the outer borders of the 4th toes. The dorsum with 6-7 longitudinal white lines in young, with dark longitudinal stripes in-between, may be overlaid with round spots. The lined pattern more or less disappears on mature specimens, replaced by dark brownish and yellowish gray maculations. The venter is whitish. In breeding season, the venter of the males and females become brilliant reddish and greenish, respectively.
Habitat & Biology: Inhabits sandy areas with sparse vegetation. Very agile and quick moving, difficult to catch in open places. Feeds on insects. A female lays 3-5 eggs.
Distribution: This species is distributed in Cyprus, Eastern Mediterranean region of Turkey, Lebanon and Israel; with a vertical distribution to 1000 m (Troodos Mountain, Southern Cyprus). One of its subspecies, A. s. syriacus Boettger, 1878 inhabits the sandy banks of Lebanon and Israel. In Cyprus and Turkey, the nominate subspecies, A. s. schreiberi Boulenger, 1879 is present (Böhme & Wiedl, 1994; Göçmen et al., 1996a; Franzen, 1998).
Lacerta troodica Werner, 1936 (Troodos Lizard)
Current scientific name: Phoenicolacerta troodica
Identification: Total length around 12-20 cm. Rostral in contact with external nares; 2 postnasals; 5 supralabials in front of subocular; supraciliary granules usually in a complete row (97%); a large masseteric scale in temporal region; 51-68 rows of indistinct keeled dorsal scales at mid-trunk; ventrals in 6 longitudinal rows; femoral pores between 19-24. In median gular region, scale numbers are 25 in average. The dorsum is gray, greenish-brown with dark spots or maculations. Flanks with a longitudinal dark stripe (Temporal Band), above which greenish-white round spots are present. Parallel subtemporal bands extend below the temporal bands down to the base of hind legs at least, or to the mid level of the tail. The venter is yellowish-white or light green, lateral parts with blue spots. Chin, throat and venter brick red in breeding season.
Habitat & Biology: Inhabits sandy slopes, arid and vegetated areas, cultivated fields, loose garden walls, rocky and stony damp places; sometimes arboreal. Feeds on insects. A female lays 2-6 eggs.
Distribution: Known only from Cyprus Island as an endemic species with a vertical distribution to 1200 m. (Troodos Mountain, Southern Cyprus). However, it is a coastal species in Northern Cyprus. Closely related species, Lacerta laevis Gray, 1838 is distributed in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Israel. In both the lateral colour pattern of the body and the fairly dark-coloured window of large scales in the lower eyelid, the Cyprus specimens closely resemble L. l. kulzeri (Budak & Göçmen 1995, Göçmen et al. 1996a). However, they are also similar to Anatolian L. l. laevis specimens in general colouration, for example a strong orange-red colour on the ventral side during breeding season. The Cyprus specimens also differ from L. l. kulzeri in ventral colouration and in some pholidosis characteristics, e.g., absent or small-sized massetericum (Hoofien et al. 1990). Habitats described by Bischoff & Schmidtler (1994) for L. l. kulzeri and by Budak & Göçmen (1995) for the Cyprus populations are different from each other. While L. l. kulzeri is an arid form, the Cyprus form likes a relatively moist habitat, which is similar to the habitat of L. l. laevis (Budak, 1976). Lacerta troodica differs from L. laevis in the following morphological characteristics: in L. laevis, median gularia number is less (average 20), gular scales larger; the subtemporal “lines” below the temporal bands extend down to the mid-trunk level and also, supraciliary granules usually not in a complete row. Regarding serum proteins, Tosunoglu et al. (1999) found qualitative differences in both albumin and globulin regions between the two forms, which suggests that the northern Cyprus and Turkey populations are clearly distinct. Accordingly, the authors concluded that these populations are taxonomically distinct at the species level. Thus, the Cyprus population should be considered as L. troodica rather than L. l. troodica as previously suggested by Budak & Göçmen (1995).
Ophisops elegans MÉNÉTRIÉS, 1832 (Snake-eyed Lizard, Field Lizard)
Identification: A small lizard with a total length up to 15-16 cm. Snout-vent length usually 5.5 cm; tail about twice body length. A distinct depression is present at the anterior dorsal side of head.
The two eyelids are fused, forming a transparent capsule over the eye, similar to that of a snake.
Rostral does not contact external nares; 2 postnasals; no collars; 28-43 rows of keeled dorsal scales at mid-trunk; ventrals in 6 longitudinal rows; femoral pores between 8-12.
The dorsum is usually gray or brown with a few or more abundant and variously sized black markings, rarely no markings on dorsum; usually two dorsolateral light lines present.
In Cyprus, chin, throat and the body venter of males become yellowish green, while this colouration is seen only in chin and throat in females during the breeding season.
Habitat & Biology: A ground-dwelling species usually inhabiting open arid plains with sparse vegetation and rocky, soily substrates; prefers steppes. Diurnally feeds on insects. A female lays 2-6 eggs.
Distribution: Its range extends from southern Balkan countries, Turkey, Aegean and Mediterranean islands, including Cyprus to SW Asia and Punjab in N India; with a vertical distribution to 2000 m.
In Cyprus, this species is represented with an endemic subspecies, O. e. schlueteri which is abundantly encountered everywhere of the island (Darevsky & Beutler, 1981: Osenegg, 1989; Böhme & Wiedl, 1994; Göçmen et al, 1996a).
9.5. Family: Scincidae
Ablepharus budaki GÖÇMEN, KUMLUTAS & TOSUNOGLU, 1996 (Budak’s Snake-eyed Skink)
Identification: A slim, glossy skink with a total length up to 6-12 cm. Rostral does not contact external nares. Nasal plate complete, not split; the ear opening is so evidently big (0.4-0.5 mm diameter) that, it can be seen with the naked eye and it is situated partially at the neck. The number of vertical rows of scales between the masseteric and the ear opening changes 3-4 (usually 3); Fused eyelids form a transparent capsule over the eye. no row of small scales forming a ring around the eye. 18-21 (average 20) rows of smooth, similar body scales around mid-trunk. The dorsum is bronze, dark brown or grayish green; the scales may be rimmed in golden and overlied with black lines. The flanks usually with a wide dark brown band (Temporal Band): below this, a dirty white subtemporal band extends up to the ear opening (in Cyprus specimens) or beyond the ear opening towards the flanks (in Turkey specimens) from the rostral plate. The ventral side of the body is blackish-bluish gray. During the breeding period, particularly in males and juveniles the venter is coloured from light orange to dark red: usually only the trunk venter or all of the ventral side, except the gular region, or only under the tail is coloured. In juveniles this colouration gradually increases and becomes brighter under and over the tail from the vent through its tip.
Habitat & Biology: Lives in open spaces with short bushy plants and maquis or sparse trees; hides under stones and leaves. Feeds on small insects and molluscs. Not a swift skink with very short limbs, but can quickly disappear in undergrowth with its slim and slippery body. A female lays 2-5 eggs.
Distribution: Its range includes Cyprus, Turkey, Lebanon and Israel; with a vertical distribution to 2000 m. In Cyprus, the eastern Mediterranean region ofTurkey, Lebanon and Israel, it is represented with the nominate subspecies, A. budaki budaki (Göçmen et al., 1996b; Schmidtler, 1997).
Chalcides ocellatus (FORSKAL, 1775) (Ocellated Skink)
Identification: A rather stout, thick necked glossy skink with a total length up to 20 cm. Rostral in contact with external nares; a transparent disc in lower eyelid; ear opening more or less distinct. 28-32 rows of smooth or slightly ridged scales around mid-trunk.
The dorsum is light brown or gray, overlaid by blackish dark spots with white centers arranged in irregular cross-bands. The venter is immaculate, dirty white.
Habitat & Biology: Typically found in sandy-pebbly places near beaches, grassy-scrubby slopes in lowlands and hides in crevices of stone walls or in holes in the ground; may also burrow swiftly in sand.
Utilizes short and relatively weak limbs during slow motion, but also uses the agile, snake like movements of its body during more speedy locomotion. Easy to find near bush roots in loose sand, feeding on spiders, insects and their larvae. An ovoviviparous species, females give birth to 2-10 young.
Distribution: Its range includes N Africa, some Mediterranean islands, including Cyprus and W Asia with a vertical distribution to 1200 m.
It is represented with the nominate subspecies, Chalcides ocellatus ocellatus in Cyprus and adjacent mainland (Pasteur, 1981; Mermer, 1997; Mermer et al, 1997; Baran & Atatür, 1998) and encountered in Messoaria frequently in Northern Cyprus (Göçmen et al., 1996a; Mermer et al., 1997).
Eumeces schneiderii (DAUDIN, 1802) (Schneider’s Skink)
Identification: A large, stout skink with a total length up to 42 cm. Rostral does not contact external nares; the lower eyelid with scales; ear opening big and oval shaped with 3-6 triangular shaped scales at anterior edge. Usually 24 or 26, rarely 22 or 28 rows of smooth body scales around mid-trunk. In adults, the dorsum changes from brown to gray or yellowish-brown with reddish or yellowish spots. A striking longitudinal yellow band usually present on the flanks. The venter is light yellow.
Habitat & Biology: Inhabits bushy open places with rocky substrates, and gardens. Hides under stones, in holes and burrows dug by itself or other burrowing animals. Feeds on insects, other invertebrates and lizards. A female lays 6-20 eggs.
Distribution: Its range extends from N Africa, Anatolia, Cyprus Island to W and Middle Asia with a vertical distribution to 1800 m. In Cyprus, the nominate race (?), E. schneiderii schneiderii (Douidin, 1802), an endemic subspecies (species?), lives. This species faces a serious threat of extinction in the island. A specimen from Northern Cyprus was caught by Mr. Asaf SENOL (The Ministry of Environment of Northern Cyprus) in 1999 (Göçmen & Senol, Unpubl. results).
Mabuya vittata (OLIVIER, 1804) (Banded Skink)
Current scientific name: Trachylepis vittata
Identification: Total length up to 20 cm, or slightly longer. More slender bodied than the closely related M. aurata. Nostril within a single plate; nuchal scales keeled; usually 32, rarely 31, 33 or 34 rows of keeled body scales around mid-trunk. The dorsum changes from olive green to brown, with three longitudinal lighter coloured bands, the vertebral band wider than the laterals. Also a light coloured longitudinal stripe on each flank. There may be dark rough maculations between the bands. Some or all of the bands and stripes may be lacking, dorsum homogenously coloured without a pattern. The venter is yellowish-white or light green, without maculations.
Habitat & Biology: Lives in bushy-scrubby and rocky places of open areas or forests, hiding among the roots of bushes or under stones. Feeds on insects. Ovoviviparous, a female gives birth to 1-4 young.
Distribution: Known from N Africa, Turkey and E Mediterranean countries, including Northern and Southern Cyprus; with a vertical distribution to 1000 m. Occurs everywhere in Northern Cyprus (Budak, 1974; Böhme & Wiedl, 1994; Göçmen et al., 1996a; Baran & Atatür, 1998; Tok et al, 1999).
Figure 18: A Cyrtopodion kotschyi specimen from Lapethos (Kyrenia), photo by B. Göçmen.
Figure 19: A Hemidactylus turcicus specimen (from Massimo Capula, 1990: Amphibians & Reptiles, Macdonald Orbis, London, 256pp).
Figure 20: A male Laudakia stellio from Lapethos (Kyrenia), photo by B. Göçmen.
Figure 21: A Chamaeleo chamaeleon specimen from Tepebasi (Kyrenia), photo by B. Göçmen.
Figure 22: Acanthodactylus schreiberi specimens (juvenile-upper side and adult male-lower side) from Salamis (Famagusta), photo by B. Göçmen.
Figure 23: A male Lacerta troodica specimen from Lapethos (Kyrenia), photo by B. Göçmen.
Figure 24: A habitat of Lacerta troodica, Laudakia stellio, Hemidactylus turcicus and Cyrtopodion kotschyi from Lapethos (Kyrenia), photo by B. Göçmen.
Figure 25: A female Ophisops elegans
specimen from Gönyeli (Nicosia), photo by B. Göçmen.
Figure 27: A habitat of Ophisops elegans from the coast of Lapethos (Kyrenia), photo by B. Göçmen.
Figure 28: An Ablepharus budaki specimen (Holotype) from Adatepe (Lapethos, Kyrenia), photo by B. Göçmen.
Figure 29: A habitat of Ablepharus budaki, Chalcides ocellatus and Coluber nummifer from Dipkarpaz Road (Karpaz District, Famagusta), photo by B. Göçmen.
Figure 30: A Chalcides ocellatus specimen from Bostanci (Güzelyurt, Nicosia), photo by B. Göçmen.
Figure 31: A biotope of Chalcides ocellatus, Acanthodactylus schreiberi and Coluber jugularis from Geçitköy (Kyrenia), photo by B. Göçmen.
Figure 32: A male Eumeces schneiderii specimen from Gönyeli (Nicosia), photo by B. Göçmen.
Figure 33: An adult Mabuya vittata specimen from Yayla (=Kumköy) (Nicosia), photo by B. Göçmen.
Figure 34: A young Mabuya vittata specimen from Yayla(=Kumköy) (Nicosia), photo by B. Göçmen.
©Bayram GÖÇMEN, All Rights Reserved.