Ocellated Lizard (Timon lepidus). Great Malaga Path
This is a robust and large reptile (up to 65 cm of total head-tail length, sometimes even 80-90 cm). The head is large and very distinct from the body. Like all the saurians, it has four legs that in this species are large and well developed. The eyelids are mobile (this character in addition to its legs, distinguishes a saurian from an ophidian). The body's colour is showy. Although the general tone can be perceived as greenish, the back is covered with yellow and black scales, as well as blue ones on the sides, generally forming ocelli (rounded spots). This ocelli profusion on the animal's body gives name to the species. The belly usually has a uniform tone: whitish, grey or yellowish. Young specimens are very striking because they exhibit a dozen rows of yellowish ocelli surrounded by a dark shade on a greyish, brown or greenish background.
WHERE DOES IT LIVE (HABITAT)
This species is indifferent in terms of habitat. It uses both scrub and forest areas, as well as agricultural land. It is common in open areas, with little vegetative cover and abundant shelter availability (large loose stones, stone heaps, stone walls, tree-holes, etc ...). It can also be present in parks and gardens of towns and small cities, where it climbs trees.
HOW DOES IT LIVE?
The ocellated lizards are diurnal, although in summer they can have some nocturnal activity avoiding the hot central hours of the day. It hibernates during the coldest months of the year, although it is possible to observe them on the sunny days of autumn and winter. It is a lone and unsociable reptile, which only mates briefly at the copulation moment and only after a somewhat violent approach to his partner. It is very agile and fast racing, being able to climb big trees very quickly. It is very distrustful and flees as soon as it feels threatened. Its diet mainly consists of insects, although it can prey on other smaller reptiles, amphibians, chickens and bird eggs, as well as on small mammals (rodents) and their offspring. They do not waste carrion and also consume wild fruits. Unlike other lizards, ocellated lizards actively search for their prey and hunt. Its bite, if handled, can be painful due to its great mandibular power.
HOW DOES IT REPRODUCE?
The lizards come into heat in spring; at this moment, the males are very territorial and aggressive with other specimens, driving them out from their territories. When a female enters a male's territory, a kind of harassment situation happens (persecution and biting) to get the female to surrender and impede its escape until she agrees to copulate. Two or three months later the female deposits between 5 and 20 eggs in a small tunnel which she has dug in the ground. In summer, small lizards hatch and become sexually mature by the third year of life, after reaching thrice the size they were when they hatched.
WHERE CAN WE SEE IT IN MALAGA AND ON THE STAGES OF THE GREAT PATH?
It is a quite common and abundant species in the province. It is very abundant in the olive groves of the Antequera region. For example, it is present in the Alameda park in the town of Ronda. It is present in almost all stages of the Great Path (Gran Senda).
LEVEL OF PROTECTION - THREAT (INVENTORY)
This lizard is part of the Andalusian Wildlife Species under Special Protection List. Its abundance seems to be on the decline in intensive farming lands and urbanized or infrastructural areas which caused its habitat deterioration. For these reasons we must add direct persecution motivated by the aversion that many reptiles provoke and their role as predators of some game species.
The ocellated lizard is the largest of the lizards existing in Europe, and is a great predator of the Mediterranean forest. This role does not free him from being also a frequent prey of mongoose, storks or raptors, among other species. Its lonely and unsociable life has given him the honour of being called in Latin as the misanthropic character of the play and tragedy of Shakespeare "Timon of Athen". The Latin epithet "lepidus" refers to its appearance, as it seems to have a "copper flake" shell according to Pliny. Actually, according to François Marie Daudin, the French zoologist who described the species in the 19th century, the epithet means that it is pleasing to the eye.
SIMILAR SPECIES (IT CAN BE MISTAKEN WITH...)
It is an unmistakable species due to its size when grown up. Young specimens can be confused with skinks, from which they are distinguished by their striking colouration, the ocelli and their head much more robust than the lizard’s.