Herpetology - the study of amphibians and reptiles

The Eyed Lizard - Timon Lepidus (formerly Lacerta lepida)

(Tunisian Eyed Lizards (T. pater) and Moroccan Eyed Lizards (T.tangitanus) are similar - see footnote)

Introduction

The Eyed Lizard, sometimes also known as the Jewelled Lizard is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular lacertids. It is certainly the largest of the European Lacertids, individuals over 800mms in length having been recorded. Even an average adult specimen will substantially outmass the other readily available species with a snout to vent length of around 230 mm (males) with the tail up to 1.5 times longer than this a total approaching 600 mm. They are found in Southern Europe but only in the Iberian peninsula can they be regarded as common.

As if the sheer size was not spectacular enough the colouration can be equally splendid. Throughout life, they are covered with numerous quite large occelli. As adults, those on the flanks are filled with an often brilliant blue. In some individuals, such as the beautiful male in the picture below these extend also onto the back. The body colour can be a plain grey (sub-species nevadensis) but is generally a shade of green - sometimes as bright as in the Green lizard..

As the picture shows, the normal differential in male female head sizes becomes even more pronounced in this species to the extent that an adult male can appear almost "top-heavy"!


Adult male Adult female  
Eyed Lizard - Timon lepidus - male  Eyed Lizard - Timon lepidus - female   

Accommodation

These splendid animals, unlike most other Lacertids, will thrive in both indoor and outdoor vivaria. The male above has lived indoors, in an unheated greenhouse and in an outdoor vivarium throughout his life and is in his 27th year at the time of writing. They do need substantial space so, indoors, a minimum size of around 1.3 metres x 60 cms is necessary for a pair. Further accommodation might be necessary to segregate the female if she becomes gravid repeatedly. Males are amazingly un-aggressive towards one another but females should not be kept together. Exceptionally, females that have been reared together since hatching will cohabit successfully. Hibernation is essential to continued breeding and a long life-span.

The vivarium should be a semi-desert set up. Hiding places must be provided and ideally the vivarium should contain a substantial heap of sand for burrowing as well. Having said this, unlike most lacertids they will do well in a more sterile environment. A clean water bowl should be provided but the vivarium should also be lightly sprayed each morning to represent dew as some individuals will only drink this way. They must have good UV lighting and a substantial temperature gradient. The ambient temperature during the summer should be around 25-30ºC during daytime in the summer with a basking hotspot of around 40ºC. At night the temperature should drop to around 15ºC. During the winter, the overall temperature should be held between 5 and 10º.

So far as outdoor accommodation is concerned, due to their size, only the very largest cold frame is suitable and would accommodate a pair as noted above. In these circumstances it is not normally necessary to segregate male from female due to overbreeding as only one or two clutches will be produced each year. Being large powerful lizards, soil type is of less concern as they can burrow through almost anything. I had a male who dug to 30 cms depth and then a 2 metre long horizontal tunnel through heavy clay
. This also underlines the necessity for rendering the vivarium escape proof using well packed substantial hardcore.

A south facing sand heap will provide a good egg-laying location and they will usually readily use artificial hibernacula. Being a larger lizard, they appreciate larger vegetation. Heaths and heathers are still good but outdoors even bushes up to 1.5 to 2 metres will be used.

More substantial accommodation is better still and will allow more animals. In the south of the UK a large outdoor vivarium and throughout the UK, an unheated greenhouse, will be suitable. It is probably best to keep them in pairs to avoid rivalry between females. Thus a 1.8 x 1.2 could be divided into two 0.9 x 1.2 vivaria. Obviously, in the case of a greenhouse, UV transmitting acrylic should be used. In addition, one or two panes could be removed from the roof during the summer. With a large outdoor vivarium it should be possible to keep more animals together although a very careful eye should be kept open for inter-female aggression.

Breeding

Mating takes place during the late Spring and is typical of lacertids (see our Breeding pages). After a period of 1 to 2 months the female will be extremely fat - individual egg bulges are often visible. She will usually dig one or two test burrows in a warm spot before choosing where to lay the eggs. She will lay anywhere from 8 to 25 eggs and, ideally, these should be dug up and incubated artificially. When the young hatch, they will usually start feeding within 24 hours of birth.

In optimum conditions, the adults will mate again and produce a second clutch about 6 weeks after the first. In indoor vivaria this is likely to be followed by a succession of clutches. Sadly, this quickly depletes the female's resources and does NOT represent typical wild behaviour. As a result, after a second clutch, the male and female should be segregated until the end of the season. This is probably the only factor that prevents them from being an almost ideal indoor vivarium lizard.

It is wise to keep them separated from the adults for the first few weeks of their lives or they will almost certainly be cannibalised. Growth is extremely rapid but the combination of female rivalry and the size of the adults means that it is seldom a good idea to put them back with the adults. Interestingly, after a few weeks rearing I usually put mine in an outdoor vivarium with Russian Sand Lizards and/or Green Lizards. These are not large enough to present a significant threat to the baby Eyed Lizards who are, in turn, not large enough to threaten the other species.

Feeding

These are primarily insectivorous lizards and should be fed a suitable range of insects. When fully grown they can handle any of the invertebrates listed in our live foods page. These should be gut loaded and dusted with a suitable multivitamin powder. In addition as large animals they will benefit from the occasional pinky and some individuals will eat plant matter - dandelion flowers are often appreciated!

If you are fortunate enough to have them breed then hatchlings/juveniles require small to medium insects - all but adult crickets are good as are mealworms or other similar sized prey. Gut-loading and vitamin dusting are essential.

Obtaining your animals

These are occasionally seen in pet shops usually as long term captives that are no longer wanted. Also young can be found in most years and these are almost invariably captive bred. There are a number of UK breeders so this should prove one of the easiest species to obtain.

For some (and so far as I am concerned, strange) reason these are not included on the list of European Protected Species.

Very similar species, although not as hardy, are Timon pater and Timon tangitanus. These are slowly becoming available from captive breeders. They should thrive in a greenhouse in southern England but will probably require indoor vivaria elsewhere in this country.

All three species make excellent vivarium animals. They can become extremely tame - especially the males which can, with patience) rival a Bearded Dragon in terms of tameness.

 

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