Friday, 12 December 2014

Nature of Corsica 8: Reptiles

P.tiliguerta male
There are of course many species of reptiles on Corsica, but as this was a mainly bird and botany focussed holiday we did not go seeking them out especially. Despite this, we found at least three species of lizard, including the endemic Tyrrhenian Wall Lizard Podarcis tiliguerta. This was the most widely seen of all the lizards we found, occurring from sea level up to altitude, and they were obvious whenever the sun was out and they could bask.

The various species of Podarcis are widely distributed around the Mediterranean and North Africa, with one species reaching Madeira in the Atlantic, and they have a tendency to colonise even small islets where they form endemic subspecies. They have also been introduced outside their range, with two species introduced to parts of North America and even a small colony as far north as the south of England. This has been going on for some time, as Corsica is also home to the more widespread Italian Wall Lizard P.sicula, which was probably introduced by the Romans. It is unusual for two species of Podarcis to be found sharing an island, and on Corsica P.tiliguerta seems to be more adapted to the mountains that make up most of the island, while P.sicula we found in sand dunes along the coast, although what the precise ecological requirements are is not clear. Wall lizards are generalist insectivores, feeding on a variety of crickets, beetles, and the like.
The other lizard we found was a couple of specimens of the very widespread Moorish Gecko, Tarentola mauretanica. This is one of the two commonly seen geckos around the Mediterranean (the other is the Turkish Gecko Hemidactylus turcicus), and is the largest European gecko. Although like most geckos they are nocturnal, they do bask in the late afternoon sun and that is how we found them, although I did not manage to get a decent photo. They concentrate on nocturnal insects such as moths, and around houses they are often seen under street lights.

Next time, mammals

(Moorish gecko photo from Wikipedia, rest are mine)

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