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Prof. Dr. Bayram GÖÇMEN

Zoologist, Herpetologist, Protozoologist/Parasitologist,             Nature Photographer

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Amphibians and Reptiles of Northern Cyprus

[Turkish Version]

by Mehmet K. ATATÜR1, B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D. &

Bayram GÖÇMEN2, B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D.

1Ege University, Faculty of Science, Department of Biology, Hydrobiology Section, E-mail:

2Ege University, Faculty of Science, Department of Biology, Zoology Section, E-mail:

35100 Bornova-Izmir, Türkiye

This Web page would be cited as "Atatür, M. K and Göçmen, B. (2001). Amphibians and Reptiles of Northern Cyprus (1st Edition), Ege Üniversitesi, Fen Fakültesi Kitaplar Serisi, No. 170, Ege Üniversitesi Basimevi, Bornova-Izmir, 63 pp." (ISBN 975-483-486-5)

“Any part of this web page may be reproduced, stored in a retrival system or transmitted, in any form or by any means; provided the authors are cited properly”

Ps. In recent years, there were so many changes on the scientific names of many species and also re-arrangement on their taxonomic status of many taxa, hence we decided to give them in the related parts in red colour.


“Environment”, which is one of the major issues on the top of the agenda of today’s world, is an integrated concept that should be protected along with the other existing values of our world. Protecting an important part of the environment, our fauna and flora, and providing the means for the natural propagation of these species are some of our most important missions. In this respect, we congratulate everyone who have contributed to the conservation of the environment and we extend our regards with the hope to live in a healthy and clean world together with its entire living organisms.

The aim of this site is to introduce the amphibian and reptilian fauna of a nature heaven, Cyprus Island (a transition zone amongst three continents: Asia, Europe and Africa), to the native and foreign nature lovers, and also to help scientists studying on this field.

3 frog and toad species (Anura), 11 lizards (Lacertilia), 3 turtles (Testudinata) and 10 snakes (Ophidia) inhabit the island. All of the 27 reptile and amphibian species are represented with colour photos and short descriptions. The information within this site is mainly based on the work of Göçmen et al. (1996), conducted in the years 1989-95, Böhme & Wiedl (1994), Baran & Atatür (1998) and also other recent studies on the herpetofauna of Cyprus. The scientific names are given in bold italic, followed by the name of the author of the species together with the date of naming (the last two are given in parentheses if the original genus name is changed); the next line gives the name in English, with the local name in parentheses (if any), followed in the next lines with identification, habitat and other biological features, and its distribution.

We acknowledge with gratitude everyone who took some of the photos used in our text, also who took part in the preparation of the site.

Bornova-June 25th, 2000                                                                 M.K.A.-B.G.










7.1. Family: Bufonidae

       Bufo viridis Laurenti, 1768 (Green Toad) - Pseudoepidelea variabilis

7.2. Family: Hylidae

       Hyla savignyi Audoin, 1827 (Green Frog)

7.3. Family: Ranidae

       Rana ridibunda Pallas, 1771 (Marsh Frog) - Pelophylax bedriagae (=P. cypriensis)


8.1. Family: Bataguridae

       Mauremys caspica (Gmelin, 1774) (Caspian Turtle, Stripe-necked Turtle) - M. rivulata

8.2. Family:Cheloniidae

       Caretta caretta (Linnaeus, 1758) (Loggerhead Turtle)

       Chelonia mydas (Linnaeus, 175) (Green Turtle)


9.1. Family: Gekkonidae

       Cyrtopodion kotschyi (Steindachner, 1870) (Kotsch’s Gecko) - Mediodactylus kotschyi

       Hemidactylus turcicus (Linnaeus, 1758) (Turkish Gecko, “Mischaro”)

9.2. Family:Agamidae

       Laudakia stellio (Linnaeus, 1758) (Spiny Lizard) - Stellagama stellio

9.3. Family: Chamaeleontidae

       Chamaeleo chamaeleon (Linnaeus, 1758) (Mediterranean Chameleon, “Hamolyo”)

9.4. Family: Lacertidae

       Acanthodactylus schreiberi Boulenger, 1918 (Fringe-toed Lizard)

       Lacerta troodica Werner, 1936 (Troodos Lizard) - Phoenicolacerta troodica

       Ophisops elegans Ménétriés, 1832 (Snake-eyed Lizard, Field Lizard)

9.5. Family: Scincidae

       Ablepharus budaki Göçmen, Kumlutas & Tosunoglu, 1996 (Budak’s Snake-eyed Skink)

       Chalcides ocellatus (Forskal, 1775) (Ocellated Skink, “Bizaska”)

       Eumeces schneiderii (Daudin, 1802) (Schneider’s Skink)

       Mabuya vittata (Olivier, 1804) (Banded Skink) - Trachylepis vitata


10.1. Family: Typhlopidae

       Typhlops vermicularis Merrem, 1820 (Worm Snake)

10.2. Family: Colubridae

       Coluber jugularis Linnaeus. 1758 (Large Whip Snake) - Dolichophis jugularis

       Coluber cypriensis Schätti, 1985 (Cyprus Whip Snake)- Hierophis cypriensis

       Coluber najadum (Eichwald, 1831) (Dahl’s Whip Snake, “Arrow Snake”) - Platyceps najadum

       Coluber nummifer Reuss, 1834 (Coin Snake) - Hemorrhois nummifer

       Eirenis modestus (Martin, 1838) (Dwarf Snake) - Eirenis levantinus

       Natrix natrix (Linnaeus, 1758) (Grass Snake)

       Telescopus fallax (Fleischmann, 1831) (Cat Snake)

       Malpolon monspessulanus (Hermann, 1804) (Montpellier Snake, “Yellow Snake”) - Malpolon insignitus

10.3. Family: Viperidae

       Vipera lebetina (Linnaeus, 1758) (Blunt-nosed Viper, “Batsalli, Deaf Snake”) - Macrovipera lebetina



A New snake species Coluber cypriensis (Schätti, 1985) which is endemic for Cyprus and a new lizard species, Ablepharus budaki (Göçmen et al., 1996b) were recently described, stemming from progressively increasing works on the herpetofauna of Cyprus (Schmidtler, 1984; Schätti, 1985; Osenegg, 1989; Schätti & Sigg, 1989; Wiedl & Böhme, 1992; Böhme & Wiedl, 1994; Göçmen et al., 1996a). It was also reported that the taxonomical states of Telescopus fallax, Vipera lebetina and Natrix natrix were still problematical and the subspecific status of Bufo viridis uncertain. The former Rana ridibunda of Cyprus is now a synonym of  R. levantina, a new species from Israel (Schneider et al., 1992; Böhme & Wiedl, 1994). Basoglu & Baran (1977) included the Chamaeleo chamaeleon populations of Cyprus to the nominate race, but Böhme & Wiedl (1994) were of the opinion that they belong to C. c. recticrista, an eastern Mediterranean race. The same authors pointed to the similarity of Ophisops elegans from Cyprus to those from Hatay (SE Anatolia).

Budak & Göçmen (1995) found some significant morphological differences between the L. laevis from Northern Cyprus and the nominate race (L. laevis laevis) from Adana & Mersin (Budak, 1976), however it would not be possible to differentiate the two populations by using  Werner's (1936) diagnostic characteristics. Thus, they strengthen the doubts of Osenegg (1989) and Schatti & Sigg (1989) on this topic. According to Budak & Göçmen (1995), the established differences may be at species level, raising the Cyprus  form to L. troodica. A serological study of Tosunoglu et al. (1999) provided a significant degree of certainty to the difference of  the two populations, suggesting the name L. troodica for the Island form. So now, it is one of the endemic species of the Island.

For a long time the Ablepharus populations of the Island were accepted as, Ablepharus kitaibelii kitaibelii, the race of adjacent mainland, until Göçmen et al. (1996b) pointed to the similarities of this form to A. k. chernovi from Turkey & Armenia, and named it as A. k. budaki. Later Schmidtler (1997) revised the genus Ablepharus  within its distribution area and concluded that the form from Cyprus is a distinct species, its relatives inhabiting Israel, Syria and Turkey, and raised it to species level as A. budaki.

On the other hand, Natrix natrix, which was found to be extinct in Cyprus (Schmidtler, 1984; Schätti, 1985; Osenegg, 1989; Schätti & Sigg, 1989), was again found as a breeding population in S Cyprus (Wiedl & Böhme, 1992); and after quite a long time, Coluber najadum was reported once more from N Cyprus (Göçmen et al, 1996a) after its initial report from the Island by Boulenger (1910)

Amphibians and reptiles are considered together in books on the herpetofauna. That is the way we tried to introduce and describe the amphibians and reptiles of Cyprus in this site. Short explanations on their descriptive general characteristics and relations with the environment are given below.



Amphibians are a class of vertebrates between fishes and reptiles, resembling in some aspects the fishes and in some others the higher groups; i.e., amphibian embryos resemble those of fishes and their usual four limbs are similar to those of terrestrial vertebrates. Amphibia (Greek Amphibios) means “living a double life”. They live in water during an early stage of development and on land during the adult stage, but always dependent on water. They are thought to be originated from fish-like ancestors but then adapted to a living on land; for example, the adults have legs instead of paired fins, the gills of larvae disappear and the adults develop lungs.

The skin of an amphibian is naked; i.e., it does not contain scales, feathers or hairs; it is always kept moist by secretions of a lot of skin glands, some of which are poison glands (Fig. 1).

Adult amphibians are carnivorous; insects, earthworms and some land snails being their main diet. While in their larval stages urodeles are carnivorous but anurans are herbivorous.

They usually metamorphose during their development; i.e., after the embryo they experience a larval stage, the duration of which is dependent on species, also on temperature and some other extrinsic conditions.

The urodeles exhibit various lively colours, while in anurans the colouration is in accordance with the environment. For example, Bufo viridis (Green Toad) is so well camouflaged in its environment, one notices it only when it jumps away.

Amphibians can not tolerate aridness and salinity in their environments. That is why they do not live in the seas and would not survive if their skins become dry.

Figure 1. A generalized male frog in dorsolateral view (slightly modified from Arnold & Burton, 1978). Go Back



Amphibians have some natural enemies; some birds, aquatic turtles, snakes, several mammals, even some large freshwater fish predate on amphibians, also their aquatic larvae are seriously harmed by some insects. But of course, the greatest adversary of amphibians is man. On the other hand, amphibians are beneficial to man, consuming large quantities of harmful insects, thus keeping under control some agricultural pests and some pathogenic vectors. Being usually ignorant of the benefits of amphibians in maintaining a natural equilibrium, we greatly harm them intentionally or unintentionally; i.e., we destroy or obliterate wetlands, their natural habitats, or seriously pollute some freshwater systems (rivers and lakes). Thus, irreversibly deplete the natural stocks of the amphibian populations.



Reptiles are a class of vertebrates between amphibians and birds, adapted to a terrestrial life style. Their skins are dry, almost without any skin glands. Over their skins a keratinous layer is present, which forms scales and plates at different parts of the body (Figs. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). From time to time, this layer is completely renewed.

Reptiles usually have four limbs, but some of them are limbless. Even those with limbs have very low bodies so that they are in contact with the ground. The majority of them live on land, but some are aquatic, however even those have lungs.

Reptiles usually have copulation organs so they have internal fertilization. They are usually oviparous, i.e., the females lay their eggs to suitable places in their environment. The eggs are either covered with deformable elastic skins or with hard, brittle shells. Some reptiles give birth to live young. They never have a larval stage during their development, the young emerging from the eggs are like miniature copies of the adults.

Reptiles are mainly carnivorous, however some turtles and some lizards feed mainly on plant material.


Figure 2: Head plates in a turtle: A, B-Dorsal, C-Lateral views. Pf: Praefrontale, F: Frontale, N: Nasale, M: Massetericum. T: Tympanicum (slightly modified from Basoglu & Baran, 1977). Go Back


Figure 3. Keratin plates in a generalized turtle shell: A- Carapace, B- Plastron. N: Nuchale, V1-V5: Vertebralia, C1-C4: Costalia, M1-M11: Marginalia, Sc: Supracaudalia, G: Gulare, H: Humerale, P: Pectorale, Ab: Abdominale, F: Femorale, An: Anale, Ax: Axillare. In: Inguinale (slightly modified from Basoglu & Baran, 1977). Go Back


Figure 4. Head and abdominal plates in a lizard: A-Lateral, B-Dorsal, C-Ventral views, D-Ventral view of hind leg region. An: Anale, Co: Collaria, F. Frontale, Fp: Frontoparietalia, Im: Inframaxillaria, In: Internasale, Ip: Interparietale, FeP: Femoral Pores, KC: Cloacal Cleft, L: Loreal Plates, M:Massetericum, Me: Mentale, MG: Median Gularia, N: Nasale, O: Occipitale, P: Parietalia, Pan: Preanale, Pf: Praefrontalia, Pn: Postnasalia, Po: Preoculare, R: Rostrale, SG: Supraciliar Granules, Su: Sulcus Gularis, Sl: Supralabialia, Sn: Supranasalia, So: Suboculare, Soc: Supraocularia, SP: Supraciliar Plates, St: Supratemporalia, T: Tympanicum, TP: Temporal Scales, V: Ventralia (slightly modified from Basoglu & Baran, 1977 and Baran & Atatür, 1998). Go Back


Figure 5: Head plates in a typical snake: A- Dorsal, B- Lateral, C- Ventral views. 1: Rostrale, 2: Internasalia, 3: Praefrontalia, 4: Frontale, 5: Supraocularia, 6: Parietalia, 7: Nasale, 8: Frenale, 9: Praeocularia, 10: Postocularia, 11: Temporalia, 12: Posttemporalia, 13: Supralabialia, 14: Sublabialia, 15: Mentale, 16: Anterior Inframaxillaria, 17: Posterior Inframaxillaria, 18: Gularia, V: Ventrale (slightly modified from Basoglu & Baran, 1978). Go Back




Figure 6: Ventral views of tails in snake families found in Cyprus Island. A-Typhlopidae (Typhlops vermicularis), B-Colubridae (Coluber jugularis), C-Viperidae (Vipera lebetina). Ay: Anal cleft, An: Anale, S: Subcaudale (slightly modified from Basoglu & Baran, 1978). Go Back



Some birds of prey and some mammals are the natural enemies of reptiles. But again, their most dangerous enemy is man.

Some of the snake and lizard species are poisonous. Poisonous lizards belonging to the genus Heloderma live in Middle America, i.e., no lizard living in Cyprus Island is poisonous. But approximately 30% of the Cyprus snake species are venomous. However, almost everybody is afraid of the snakes and they are usually indiscriminately killed whenever seen. Some limbless lizards inhabiting the adjacent mainland, but which do not exist in Cyprus, for example European Glass Lizard, Ophisaurus apodus [Pseudopus apodus]) are also usually get killed, being mistaken with snakes.

Reptiles prefer warm to hot regions, their species and numbers diminish towards colder areas. A lessening in abundance is also observed with increasing altitude. Some specially adapted reptiles live on trees or in water.

The relations of reptiles with man are a little different from those of other animal groups. As mentioned before, some of the snakes are venomous, so the majority of the human population is afraid of snakes and tries to kill them if possible, without discriminating the venomous from the harmless ones. In so harming the general snake populations, we also destroy the equilibrium of nature. Some people are also using various snakes as pet trade material, which also depletes natural snake populations, and as a result, mice and rats in nature get out of control, causing much harm to our various agricultural crops.

Some human activities pollute, reduce or completely destroy habitats suitable for snakes. Also, the skins of some snakes are used in the manufacture of shoes, belts, etc., resulting in uncontrolled hunting of these species, seriously endangering their survival.

Reptiles developed and evolved into many diverse groups up to and during Mesozoic, thus becoming the masters of our planet; but in later geological ages a lot of reptile groups became extinct, so today only a small percentage of those diverse groups survive. Compared with other vertebrates, reptile species are significantly fewer both qualitatively and quantitatively.



The great majority of the amphibian and reptilian fauna of Cyprus Island is without poison or venom.

Two species of the Island's snakes; Telescopus fallax (Cat Snake) and Malpolon monspessulanus (Montpellier Snake) are usually harmless unless they bite thin regions (like fingers) because their paired poison teeth are way back in their upper jaws. They usually feed on small rodents like mice, thus they are effective in saving some agricultural crops and help in keeping the general hygienic properties of the environment. Some of the other reptilian and amphibian species are potential biological pest controllers, feeding on various insect and rodent pests. Decreases in the populations of amphibians and aquatic turtles caused by chemical pollution in their wetland habitats result in a proportional increase in various insect pests sharing the same environment, eradication of which is an expensive process. Similarly, fear of snakes resulting from ignorance causes the local people to kill any snake on sight, removing important rodent controllers from the environment.One should always keep in mind that these amphibian and reptilian species do not share common food sources with man, and various lizard and snake species never harm us, unless provoked or stepped-on accidentally, etc. However; the Blunt-nosed Viper, Vipera lebetina, which may be encountered especially during the night time in open grasslands, rocky-stony areas in Cyprus, may be dangerous to small and large mammals, even to man, being venomous and having a large pair of poison fangs in front of its upper jaw.

Taking into consideration the presence of both poisonous and non-poisonous snakes on the Island, and the probability of being bitten by any one of them, at least some basic information and first-aid procedures should be given.

A bitten person should not try to catch the culprit, which may lead to further bitings. Any snake can bite a man and usually the majority of snake bites are done by non-poisonous species, even the bite of a poisonous snake does not always inject an effective amount of venom into the wound. With the proper and timely precautions, death from snake bites on the island would be very rare indeed. Even in untreated viper bite cases, death in the first 24 hours is almost impossible. However such bites should be considered seriously and treated accordingly.

There may appear some observable symptoms at the bite area within half an hour and they may indicate the possibility of poisoning. Then no time should be lost in getting treatment, bearing in mind that over-excitement and panic can also be harmful.

In case of poisoning the first symptoms are:

  • The first and sometimes the only symptom may be shock, which can also result from the bite of a non-poisonous snake. The victim usually feels weak but in extreme cases can become semi-conscious with cold, damp skin, weak pulse and rapid, shallow breathing.

  • In case of a real poisoning, the bite area swells within several minutes.

  • Later; sweating, vomiting, abdominal pains and diarrhea may appear.

The first-aid procedure should be:

  • Victim should be reassured and calmed.

  • The bite area should be immobilized, movement may spread the venom.

  • Prompt medical attention should be seeked, preferably at a hospital with viper antivenin facilities.

  • If medical attention is likely to be delayed for over an hour, a firm (but not tight) ligature can be applied above the bite area to retard the spreading of venom. Cutting with a sterile razor or sucking of the wound is not recommended since the former may lead to shock and the latter to secondary poisoning. Washing the wound with strong disinfectants or with potassium permanganate solution should also be avoided.

In some highly sensitive people (to snake venom) the bite is immediately followed by a collapse. Medical attention should be given to them as soon as possible.

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Montivipera albizona (Kahramanmaras, Turkey)

Montivipera albizona (White-Banded Mountain Viper) *One of the Anatolian endemics living in the Anatolian Diagonal which we found it at a high plateu of Kahramanmaras with a new locality record! Photo: B. Göçmen)

Eirenis levantinus (Northern Cyprus)

Eirenis levantinus (Levantine Dwarf Snake) *It was recently rediscovered from the Northern Cyprus after  approximately 150 years in a narrow, specialized field by us! Photo: B. Göçmen)

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