This little reptile lives in lowland areas of Europe and Asia. It plays a valuable role in the ecosystem by hunting caterpillars that parasitize agricultural crops. Neither venomous nor dangerous to humans, it can often be found near homes, where it basks in the sun on home lawns and rockeries.
The sand lizard belongs to the family of true lizards.
It is an extensive family with about 300 species divided into 39 genera.
It is found throughout most of Europe and parts of Asia.
It lives on the British Isles, in central Europe, western Russia and northwestern China. It does not occur on the Iberian Peninsula.
Sand lizard prefers lowland areas such as meadows, gardens and open spaces where it can bask in the sun.
Depending on the population, the coloration of the sand lizard may vary.
Two lines composed of eye-like spots run across the side of the body. Body coloration ranges from light brown to dark brown, with a dark stripe running from the neck to the end of the tail. The females of these lizards have more distinct patterns than the males. In the spring, during mating season, the sides of the males turn bright green and do not fade until late summer. The sexes can also be distinguished by the color of the underbelly, which is greenish in males and gray or cream in females.
Like most reptiles, their bodies are covered with scales.
They are smaller and rough on the back, while the abdomen is covered with larger and smooth ones that make it easier for the animal to move.
The body length can be up to 24 cm (9,44 in). Individuals from Eastern Europe can reach up to 28 cm (11 in). They have a compact, stocky body.
Both the legs and the snout are short. The paws end with long, clawed toes. The tail, in turn, is almost half its length, about 11 cm (4,3 in).
Sand lizard is carnivorous.
Invertebrates, spiders and insects form the basis of its diet. It also feeds on caterpillars. In addition, a sand lizard can hunt the young of other lizards and, under special conditions, devour the young of its own species.
Like most ectothermic organisms, they are diurnal.
They warm their bodies in the first rays of the sun and use the accumulated energy to hunt later in the day.
They avoid too high temperatures and hide in their burrows.
Temperatures around 40 °C (104 °F) are too high for them, and they are forced to look for places where they can cool down. The best sites for this are their burrows, where they spend the nights and which they defend fiercely against intruders.
They are very territorial.
They defend the territory they occupy and the burrow within it, which they can inhabit for life. The burrow of the sand lizard is up to 5 cm deep and has many branches to confuse predators. Subterranean burrow systems can be up to 8 m (26 ft) long.
They overwinter in their burrows, where they hibernate.
They burrow in about October and leave them in March or April. Their activity is closely related to the ambient temperature.
When hibernation is over, the breeding season begins. It lasts from May to June.
During this time, the males become very aggressive and fight with each other to mate with as many females as possible. During the fights, the males grab each other's throats, snouts, or limbs to prove their superiority over their opponents.
After fertilization, the female lays 5 to 15 eggs in the burrow.
In record cases, she may lay up to 18 eggs, which she then buries (as most reptiles do) in well-sunned soil and leaves to fend for themselves. The young hatch about six weeks after the eggs are laid, and the newly hatched individuals are about 6 centimeters (2,36 inches) long.
The life expectancy of a sand lizard in the wild is 5 to 8 years.
Males can live up to 12 years and females up to 18 years, but this is rare due to predation.
Mostly they fall prey to weasels, foxes, badgers, birds, and snakes.
Of the domesticated animals, cats and chickens pose the greatest threat to them.
When a lizard is threatened, it may shed its tail.
This behavior serves to distract the predator and allow the lizard to escape safely. After some time, the lizard's tail begins to grow back, although it rarely reaches its original shape and length.
Despite the high number of those reptiles, the population of the sand lizard has declined.
Progressing industrialization, which deprives the lizards of their habitat, can be considered the main reason.