Viviparous Lizard

Viviparous Lizard

Zootoca vivipara
Population size
Life Span
5-6 yrs
12 cm

The Viviparous lizard lives farther north than any other species of non-marine reptile, and most populations are viviparous (giving birth to live young), rather than laying eggs as most other lizards do. Viviparous lizards can be seen in a variety of different colours. The main colour is typically medium brown, but it can be also grey, olive brown or black. Females may have dark stripes on their flanks and down the middle of their backs. Sometimes females also have light-coloured stripes, or dark and light spots along the sides of their backs. Most males and some females have dark spots in their undersides. Males have brightly coloured undersides - typically yellow or orange, but more rarely red. Females have paler, whitish underparts. The throat is white, sometimes blue.


Viviparous lizards are widely distributed throughout Europe and Asia. Their range extends to the north of the Arctic Circle. They range from Ireland to Hokkaido (Japan) and Sakhalin (Russia). These lizards are absent from most of the Mediterranean area, although they occur in northern Spain, Northern Italy, Serbia, North Macedonia, and Bulgaria. They are also absent from the area surrounding the Black Sea. In these areas, Viviparous lizards live in damp locations, often near water, including meadows, swamps, rice fields, by brooks and in damp forests. In the northern part of the range, they occur in drier environments, including open woodland, meadows, moorland, heathland, fens, dunes, rocks, roadsides, hedgerows and gardens.

Viviparous Lizard habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Viviparous lizards live mainly on the ground, although they may also climb onto rocks, logs, and low-growing vegetation. They are diurnal creatures; in early spring, late autumn, and cool summer days, they are often seen basking in the sun in order to reach their optimum body temperature. Viviparous lizards are generally solitary, however, some individuals may live in small groups. Due to the cool climate, in northern regions, these lizards begin hibernation in September or October, underground or in log piles. Hibernation ends about mid-February. Further south, however, they stay active throughout the year. Viviparous lizards have a very sharp sense of smell. When they detect odors of predators, they start to flick their tongue rapidly and try to determine the distance to the predator. If the predator is near, the lizard will freeze to seem dead or will blend with the environment.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Viviparous lizards are carnivores (insectivores). They feed mostly on small insects such as flies, cicadas, spiders, and even snails.

Mating Habits

April, May
3 months
3-10 young
at birth
young, hatchling

Viviparous lizards are polygynandrous (promiscuous) meaning that both males and females have multiple partners. They mate in April or May. The name of these lizards is derived from their ability to give birth to live young, an adaptation to a cool climate; however, some southern populations are oviparous (egg-laying). Females produce 3 to 10 young (or eggs), usually in July. The gestation period lasts about three months. The young are born blackish in color and measure about 3 cm (1.2 in). When first born, baby lizards are surrounded by egg membrane, from which they break free after about a day. They are completely independent at birth and don't receive parental care. Males reach reproductive maturity at the age of two years, while females become reproductively mature at the age of three years.


Population threats

The main threat to Viviparous lizards is habitat loss due to urbanization, farming, and tourism development.

Population number

The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Viviparous lizard total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.

Ecological niche

As predators, these lizards control populations of insects and other arthropods they consume in their diet. In turn as a prey species, they are an important food source for local predators such as dogs, cats, hedgehogs, and snakes.


1. Viviparous Lizard on Wikipedia -
2. Viviparous Lizard on The IUCN Red List site -

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