Basking in the Sun: The Wall Lizard’s Simple Pleasure

GardenBy Jul 07, 2024

The Wall Lizard: A Fascinating Creature

The wall lizard, scientifically known as Podarcis muralis, is one of the most commonly found lizard species in France and Europe. Belonging to the Lacertidae family, this climbing reptile finds solace around houses where it enjoys basking in the sun on tall piles of stones. Depending on the region in France, it is known by different names such as rapiette, langrotte, larmuze, larmeuse, lagremuze, or larmouise. Let’s take a closer look at this harmless squamate and the valuable role it plays in the garden.

Meet the Wall Lizard

The average length of a wall lizard is around 20 cm, with a weight ranging between 4 g and 8.5 g. Interestingly, females are slightly smaller than males. The lizard’s tail alone is nearly twice as long as the rest of its body. Its four legs are equipped with long fingers that allow it to grip onto surfaces while climbing vertically.

The wall lizard’s scaly body comes in various colors. Its hues can range from gray and brown to greenish, with different degrees of stripes, enabling it to blend in with the stones it often traverses. Females and juveniles have an additional continuous dark brown band on their flanks.

All wall lizards have a subtle dorsal line, which in males takes the form of scattered dark spots or a discontinuous network. Their bellies are generally lighter, featuring shades of pink, white, yellow, or orange, with varying degrees of darker spots or marks. The lizard sheds its skin in patches and ingests it as it peels off. Be warned, it is extremely skittish and lightning fast!

One unique attribute of the wall lizard is autotomy, or the ability to shed its tail without scales. When an enemy grabs its tail, it can easily break off, allowing the reptile to escape its predator’s clutches. To deceive its attacker further, the detached tail continues to move, distracting the predator while the lizard makes its getaway. A replacement tail will grow back, but only once, and it will be uniformly dark gray without scales.

A Sun-Loving Reptile

During winter, wall lizards hibernate and sleep a lot, unless the sun is shining. They are highly agile creatures that are active during the day, primarily found in walls, between stones, and in various crevices, often favoring abandoned or less frequented areas that are warm and basked in full sunlight. The wall lizard is what we call a cold-blooded animal or poikilothermic, meaning its body temperature depends on its environment, particularly the ambient temperature. In winter, the cold makes them sluggish, but the warmth of the sun revitalizes them.

Wall lizards face numerous predators, including cats who consider them as playful toys. Hedgehogs and birds also enjoy feasting on them. These small reptiles typically sunbathe in elevated spots to have a better view of their surroundings, ready to slip into the nearest crevice when needed, returning to their sunny spot once the danger has passed. With its agility, a wall lizard can live for 5 to 6 years, and in some cases, up to 10 years.

Where Can You Find Wall Lizards?

Wall lizards are found across almost all of Europe, from the Netherlands in the north to central Spain. In France, they can be spotted throughout the country, including the Atlantic islands. There are around twenty subspecies, each with its own specific distribution range.

They prefer warm and dry environments, particularly sunny, rocky, and south-facing locations. As long as they have regular sunbathing opportunities, they thrive in embankments, quarries, cliffs, rockslides, ruins, dry stone walls, vineyards, woodpiles, and other sunny, dry spots. Wall lizards can also swim and enjoy the proximity of more humid habitats. They occupy an area of about 25 square meters, often sharing it with other lizards.

A Diverse Diet

Wall lizards have a varied diet, consuming a wide range of prey. They particularly relish insects like flies, butterflies, millipedes, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and locusts, as well as earthworms and various spiders. Although rare, they may occasionally consume bees, or even their own young when other food sources are scarce. Adult wall lizards can also turn on juvenile lizards for nourishment.

Reproduction of Wall Lizards

The breeding season for wall lizards begins shortly after their hibernation period ends. During spring, males engage in violent fights to win the favor of females. Mating occurs during this time, with females laying between 2 and 10 cream-colored eggs, which they carefully place under stones, in crevices, or in pre-prepared cavities in the ground to protect them from predators.

Depending on ambient temperature, incubation can last between 6 and 11 weeks. This means that most hatchlings are born between late July and mid-August. They must wait until they reach two years old to become sexually mature. Depending on the climate, a female can lay eggs up to three times in a year, until the end of October or early November. Older females tend to produce more eggs.

The Wall Lizard: A Garden Ally

In the garden, the wall lizard functions as a valuable ally, as it helps eliminate various small pests while foraging for food. Spiders, caterpillars, crickets, grasshoppers, aphids, flies, and many other insects comprise its daily menu. Additionally, wall lizards cause no damage, so it’s best to let them go about their business in peace!

Unfortunately, the wall lizard’s environment is becoming increasingly hostile, making it highly vulnerable. Pesticides and insecticides not only kill many of its prey, but also poison the lizards themselves. While wall lizards can also adapt to urban environments, rampant urbanization is not favorable to them. They thrive in stone slopes with temperatures of around 30 degrees, which are diminishing due to new constructions and renovations.

It’s important to note that wall lizards are entirely protected by the law for nature conservation. It is illegal to harm, mutilate, capture, remove, preserve dead or alive, transport, trade, or use them. Destroying or removing their eggs or nests is also prohibited. They are listed in Annex 4 of the European Habitat Directive (92/43/EC), which outlines strictly protected species.

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I'm Jennifer. My hands are often covered in soil, and my heart is full of passion for nature. Through my writings, I share my personal gardening journeys, tips, and the joy of cultivating both plants and a community of fellow garden lovers. Every plant I grow adds a story to my life, and I love sharing those tales with my readers.