The dance of lizards

Flanders Moss NNR

We are now well into spring, heading for summer and the lizards on the moss are well into their year. They first emerged as the weather warmed up in March and early April and immediately needed to warm up themselves and start feeding. They spent the winter in hummocks of moss, among the roots of trees and peat banks and dry ridges, anywhere where they are above the water table and had some cover. Within a few weeks of coming out of hibernation and feeding up the males and females are ready to mate. And it is the females that make the first move.

The male lizards are creatures of habit, they have set routes around their territory on the moss that they follow daily, hunting for food. If a female comes across one of these paths she follows it, or waits on it, until she meets a male. There then follows a carefully choreographed sequence of courtship moves between the two that include some parading, a bit of tail vibrating, some touching of flanks with their tongues and a slow chase, before mating takes place.

Unlike most reptiles the female then develops live young inside her which are born (rather than hatched) around July time. While developing her young the female needs plenty of sun to help grow the youngsters. A cold, summer with little sun (do we have those in Scotland?) might mean that she has to hibernate while still carrying the fetuses and then wait to give birth to them in the spring.

So about now some of the lizards along the boardwalk can look somewhat rounded, not a surprise if they are carrying up to 10 youngsters internally. Soon the small black young lizards will start to appear along the boardwalk and the next generation is on its way.

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