Common or Viviparous Lizard
Viviparous lizards have a rather stocky body and relatively short limbs, a smallish head with a rounded nose. The colour of the back is green brown, beige, grey or dark brown with a darker streak or series of spots that may run the length of their body and tail. Black individuals occur with some frequency. Their belly is brightly coloured during the breeding period, yellow or orange with dark spots for males, less colourful for females with fewer spots or speckles, their throat is coloured shades of blue for both sexes. Length rarely exceeds 17 cm.
They are to be found in most parts of France although they are completely absent in many parts of the south west and the Mediterranean coastal band.
They prefer a moist or wet habitat, marshland, damp leaves, wood debris, wet ditches and are also frequently to be found near to a source of water where they enjoy swimming. In spite of this fondness for damp conditions, they sun themselves on tree stumps and similar surfaces, frequently in groups and will often be seen returning to their favourite spot. Hibernation takes place from October until March, although they often emerge for short spells during warmer periods. Sometimes during this period large groups can be found together under logs, large rocks or in other cavities.
Food is varied and is comprised of insects, grubs, worms, and it also seems that they will take bees and wasps without fear of being stung, having grabbed their prey they shake it hard and then eat it whole.
Reproduction takes place between April and June, and although males will attempt to defend a territory, the females will frequently couple with several different males during the course of a day. The young, which number between 3 and 15, are produced around three months later, and are born in an egg membrane which they normally break out of at the same moment as birth, although this can take up to three days. When born they are able to fend for themselves immediately without any assistance from their mother.
The sub species Zootoca vivipara louislantzi which is found on the Pyrenees and south-western plains (Landes de Gascogne, including the extreme west of the Gers), is distinguished specifically by the particularity of not being viviparous but oviparous! (females lay eggs incubated in the natural environment).
Generally not considered to be seriously threatened with a range that stretches all the way from Europe across Russia to the Sea of Okhotsk. However loss of habitat is fragmenting some populations and climate change is of concern with increasing periods of draught in France