Italian wall lizard

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Italian wall lizard
Podarcis sicula rb edit.jpg
2013 Lizard Firenza 01.JPG
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Lacertidae
Genus: Podarcis
P. siculus
Binomial name
Podarcis siculus
(Rafinesque, 1810)
  • Lacerta sicula Rafinesque, 1810

The Italian wall lizard or ruin lizard (Podarcis siculus, from the Greek meaning agile and feet) is a species of lizard in the family Lacertidae. P. siculus is native to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, France, Italy, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovenia, and Switzerland, but has also been introduced to Spain, Turkey, the United States, and Canada.[1] P. siculus is the most abundant lizard species in southern Italy.[2]

P. siculus gained attention in 2008 following the publication of a research study[3] that detailed distinct morphological and behavioral changes in a P. sicula population indicative of "rapid evolution".[4][5][6]


Its natural habitats are Mediterranean-type shrubby vegetation, rocky areas, rocky shores, sandy shores, rural gardens, pastureland, plantations, and urban areas.


Podarcis siculus klemmeri - a blue morph found exclusively on the small island of Licosa.

P. siculus contains dozens of subspecies.[7] The current distribution patterns of the subspecies have been interpreted as the consequence of natural events, including regional glacial refuges and postglacial area expansions, and multiple introductions by man.[8]

The island endemic Santo Stefano lizard (P. s. sanctistephani) became extinct in 1965 after introduction of predators, interbreeding with introduced wall lizards, and a disease epidemic, which wiped out the last remnants.

List of subspecies: P. s. adriaticus, P. s. aemiliani, P. s. amparoae, P. s. astorgae, P. s. attaroi, P. s. bagnolensis, P. s. bolei, P. s. calabresiae, P. s. campestris, P. s. caporiaccoi, P. s. cettii, P. s. ciclopica, P. s. coeruleus, P. s. cucchiarai, P. s. dupinici, P. s. fiumanoideus, P. s. flavigulus, P. s. gallensis, P. s. hadzii, P. s. hieroglyphicus, P. s. insularus, P. s. klemmeri, P. s. kolombatovici, P. s. laganjensis, P. s. lanzai, P. s. latastei, P. s. massinei, P. s. monaconensis, P. s. nikolici, P. s. palmarolae, P. s. pasquinii, P. s. paulae, P. s. pelagosae, P. s. pirosoensis, P. s. pohlibensis, P. s. premudanus, P. s. premudensis, P. s. pretneri, P. s. radovanovici, P. s. ragusae, P. s. salfii, P. s. samogradi, P. s. sanctinicolai, P. s. sanctistephani, P. s. siculus, P. s. tyrrhenicus, P. s. vesseljuchi. [9]

Rapid adaptation[edit]

Video of hunting Italian wall lizard
P. siculus taking morning sunbath

In 1971, 10 adult specimens (five breeding pairs) of P. siculus were transported from the Croatian island of Pod Kopište to the island Pod Mrčaru (about 3.5 km to the east). Both islands lie in the Adriatic Sea near Lastovo), where the lizards founded a new bottlenecked population.[3][10] The two islands have similar size, elevation, microclimate, and a general absence of terrestrial predators[10] and P. siculus expanded for decades without human interference, even outcompeting the (now locally extinct)[3] Podarcis melisellensis population.[11]

In the 1990s, scientists returned to Pod Mrčaru and found that the lizards currently occupying Mrčaru differ greatly from those on Kopište. While mitochondrial DNA analyses have verified that P. siculus specimens currently on Mrčaru are genetically very similar to the Kopište source population,[3] the new Mrčaru population of P. siculus was described as having a larger average size, shorter hind limbs, lower maximal sprint speed, and altered response to simulated predatory attacks compared to the original Kopište population.[10] These population changes in morphology and behavior were attributed to "relaxed predation intensity" and greater protection from vegetation on Mrčaru.[10]

In 2008, further analysis revealed that the Mrčaru population of P. siculus has significantly different head morphology (longer, wider, and taller heads) and increased bite force compared to the original Kopište population.[3] This change in head shape corresponded with a shift in diet: Kopište P. siculus are primarily insectivorous, but those on Mrčaru eat substantially more plant matter.[3] The changes in foraging style may have contributed to a greater population density and decreased territorial behavior of the Mrčaru population.[3]

Another difference found between the two populations was the discovery, in the Mrčaru lizards, of cecal valves, which slow down food passage and provide fermenting chambers, allowing commensal microorganisms to convert cellulose to nutrients digestible by the lizards.[3] Additionally, nematodes were common in the guts of Mrčaru lizards, but absent from Kopište P. siculus, which do not have cecal valves.[3] The cecal valves, which occur in less than 1% of all known species of scaled reptiles,[3] have been described as an "adaptive novelty, a brand new feature not present in the ancestral population and newly evolved in these lizards".[12]

As an introduced species[edit]

Populations of P. siculus in North America have been documented from Topeka, Kansas, Long Island, New York, Greenwich, Connecticut, and Levittown, Pennsylvania.[13][14] The species seems to be extending its range from an initial colonization event in western Long Island, presumably by using railroad tracks as dispersal corridors.[15] On the West Coast, ''P. sicula'' was introduced to San Pedro, California, in 1994 by a traveler coming back from Sicily.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Crnobrnja-Isailovic, J.; Vogrin, M.; Corti, C.; Pérez Mellado, V.; Sá-Sousa, P.; Cheylan, M.; Pleguezuelos, J.; Sindaco, R.; Romano, A. & Avci, A. (2009). "Podarcis siculus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2009: e.T61553A86151752. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2009.RLTS.T61553A12515189.en.{{cite iucn}}: error: |doi= / |page= mismatch (help)
  2. ^ De Falco M, Sciarrillo R, Virgilio F, et al. (August 2004). "Annual variations of adrenal gland hormones in the lizard Podarcis sicula". J. Comp. Physiol. A. 190 (8): 675–81. doi:10.1007/s00359-004-0528-1. PMID 15170520. S2CID 10821629.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Herrel A, Huyghe K, Vanhooydonck B, et al. (March 2008). "Rapid large-scale evolutionary divergence in morphology and performance associated with exploitation of a different dietary resource". Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 105 (12): 4792–5. Bibcode:2008PNAS..105.4792H. doi:10.1073/pnas.0711998105. PMC 2290806. PMID 18344323.
  4. ^ "National Geographic: Lizards Rapidly Evolve After Introduction to Island". 2008-04-21. Retrieved 2008-05-27.
  5. ^ "Science Daily: Lizards Undergo Rapid Evolution After Introduction To A New Home". Retrieved 2008-05-27.
  6. ^ "Newswise: Lizards Undergo Rapid Evolution After Introduction to New Island". Archived from the original on 2011-08-20. Retrieved 2008-08-06.
  7. ^ "TYPICAL LIZARDS (Lacertidae): Podarcis sicula ssp". Archived from the original on 2008-06-11. Retrieved 2008-06-02.
  8. ^ Podnar M, Mayer W, Tvrtković N (February 2005). "Phylogeography of the Italian wall lizard, Podarcis sicula, as revealed by mitochondrial DNA sequences". Mol. Ecol. 14 (2): 575–88. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2005.02427.x. PMID 15660947. S2CID 2955146.
  9. ^ "Podarcis siculus".
  10. ^ a b c d Bart Vervust; Irena Grbac; Raoul Van Damme (August 2007). "Differences in morphology, performance and behaviour between recently diverged populations of Podarcis sicula mirror differences in predation pressure". Oikos. 116 (8): 1343–1352. doi:10.1111/j.0030-1299.2007.15989.x.
  11. ^ "Lizards Rapidly Evolve After Introduction to Island". National Geographic. 2008-04-21.
  12. ^ Myers, PZ (23 April 2008). "Still just a lizard". ScienceBlogs.
  13. ^ "This little lizard made our front yard his home".
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2015-01-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]