Green Lizard

(Lacerta viridis)




Facts about this animal

With a total length of 25 to 35 cm (up to even 42 cm), whereby the tail measures 2/3 of the total length, the Lacerta viridis belongs to the “giants” among the lizards of the family Lacerdidae. The body of the males is a brilliant emerald green (hence its German name) punctuated with small yellow and black spots that are more pronounced upon its back. The throat is clear blue in the adult males in particular during the mating season. The colour of the females is more variable and young animals are rather brown. The belly of the males is yellow, that of the females pale yellow to greenish. Around mid March the first males leave their winter quarters and expose themselves to the sunlight. About two weeks later the females follow. The green lizard is active at daytime with a peak of activity in the morning. Usually it stays on the ground, but in cooler wather this thermophile reptile may also climb on low branches for basking. After sunset it can be found on stillwarm stones or rocks. The preferred temperature lies between 32 to 33 °C But it can tolerate temperatures as low as 15 °C outside the den. Therefore it retires to the winter quarters around mid October. Green lezards are not vagrant and the male soften defend a territory of 200 to 1200 m². The mating period lasts from April to mid June. The males chase each other with muich noise through the vegetation and may fight quite vigorously. When mating, males bite the female into the tail and walk with it and finally hold fast to it with ist front legs. A male can mate with several females and those also mate several times before egg laying After three to six weeks the females lay 6 to 23 eggs, not too deep into lose sand or clay soil. 50 to 100 days later (depending upon the weather conditions) the young hatch. They are 3 to 4.5 cm long and unfortunately are sometimes eaten by the adults. Adults eat a variety of fod items, but mainly invertebrae, like beetles, locusts, caterpillars, woodlice, spiders, worms and snails, but also the juice of ripe berries (blackberries, red grapes or strawberries). Rarely they eat newborn lizards and small mice. Enemies of the green lizard are numerous (martens, weasel, birds of pray, snakes and house cats).

Did you know?
In 1991, scientists divided the former one species of green lizards into two, a Western Green Lizard (Lacerta bilineata) and an Eastern Green Lizad (Lacerta viridis). There are however only very slight morphological differences and it could well bet hat further studies might show that they indeed are only one species and revert their nomenclature again to the previous situation. As all lizards (and geckos) also the green lizard can actively lose its tail in dangerous situations, i.e. when threatened by a predator like a marten, a weasel a bird of prey or a house cat. This is called “autotomy”. Beginning with the sixth, each tail-vertebra of the green lizard has a pre-prepared site of fracture. By a strong and sudden contraction of the circular tail musculature it can separate itself from a bigger or a smaller portion of the tail as need arises. Due to the still functioning autonomous nervous system of the tail fragment the detached body part does still move vigurously up to twenty minutes, thus catching the attention of the persecutor and allow the now tailless lizard to get away. Thus by sacrificing a non vital body part, in most cases the lizard succeeds in saving its life. After a while the lizard grows a new tail, however this substitute is not supported by another vertebral column but by a cartilaginous and unbreakable rod.


Name (Scientific) Lacerta viridis
Name (English) Green Lizard
Name (French) Lézard vert
Name (German) Östliche Smaragdeidechse
Name (Spanish) Lagarto verde
Local names Czech: Jesterka zelená
Hungarian: Zöld gyík
Italian: Ramarro
Rumansh: Luschard verd
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



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Range Western Green Lizard (Lacerta bilineata): Northern Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany (Rheinland-Pfalz and Baden-Württemberg), Italy. Eastern Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis):.Eastern Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovinia, Croatia, Hungary, Balkan region, Southern Ukraine and Northwestern Anatolia.
Habitat Dry, sun-exposed areas such as bushy meadows,edges of forests,grassy wineyards with stone cairns, screes, ledges, precipes, dry stone walls, waysides and/or light hedges. with a sufficient degree of humidity and a mixture of open structures and tesselated growth of vegetation.
Wild population Much of their habitat is destroyed by intensive agriculture, but they are also threatened by road traffic, stray cats and pesticides.
Zoo population 28 reported to ISIS (2008)

In the Zoo

Green Lizard


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 41 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
Eric Steinert

Why do zoos keep this animal

The green lizard is one of the largest and most attractive European lizards. It is kept almost exclusively by European zoos, who keep it for educational reasons, as an example of the neative herpetofauna, and as an ambassador for the conservation of European reptiles, most of which are at least regionally threatened.