Viviparous Lizard

Viviparous Lizard

Viviparous lizard, Common lizard

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

The viviparous lizard, or common lizard, (Zootoca vivipara, formerly Lacerta vivipara ), is a Eurasian lizard. It lives farther north than any other species of non-marine reptile, and is named for the fact that it is viviparous, meaning it not only lays eggs, but also gives birth to live young. It is the only species in the monotypic genus Zootoca. Both "Zootoca " and "vivipara " mean "live birth," in Greek and Latin respectively. It was called Lacerta vivipara until the genus Lacerta was split into nine genera in 2007 by Arnold, Arribas & Carranza.

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Male and female Zootoca vivipara are equally likely to contract blood parasites. Additionally, larger males have been shown to reproduce more times in a given reproductive season than smaller ones.

The lizard is also unique as it is exclusively carnivorous, eating only flies, spiders, and insects. Studies show that the more carnivorous an individual is (the more insects they eat), the less diverse the population of parasitic helminths that infest the lizards.

Zootoca vivipara lives in very cold climates, yet participates in normal thermoregulation instead of thermoconformity. They have the largest range of all terrestrial lizards which even include subarctic regions. It is able to survive these harsh climates as individuals will freeze in especially cold seasons and thaw two months later. They also live closer to geological phenomena that provide a warmer environment for them.

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Generally solitary




starts with


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

Viviparous Lizard habitat map
Viviparous Lizard
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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 The IUCN Red List site -

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