A Rare Glimpse of A Common Lizard (words by Chris Greely)
Last week a member, Cian Lavin, caught a brief look of a very rare inhabitant of the island on the 8th hole. The common lizard (Zootoca vivipara) is Ireland’s only native species of reptile. Despite being called the common lizard, it is actually quite rare with some rare characteristics. Its scattered distribution is mostly due to Ireland's temperate weather which inhibits most reptiles from living here. Reptiles are cold blooded which means they need the heat of the sun to regulate their internal temperature system. To tackle this hurdle, common lizards hibernate in groups from October to March.
Photo take by Cian Lavin when out with the Monday night divoting group.
The alternative name given to the common lizard is viviparous lizard, which is a more apt description as viviparous means that the young develop within egg membranes inside the female’s body. Again, this is a rare trait for reptile species as most lay eggs (oviparous). The exact reasons for this attribute are still up for debate but in a climate such as Irelands, the cooler temperatures would likely negatively impact on offspring survival rates, so it is beneficial that the mother internally thermoregulates its brood before birth.
The common lizard is exclusively carnivorous which again is unusual for reptiles. They generally feed on a wide range of invertebrates such as insects, snails and spiders. They are on the other hand commonly predated by birds which make them easy targets for such a diverse population that inhabits Bull Island. Nonetheless, the presence of the common lizard indicates that there may be a healthy population of lizards living within the Royal Dublin grounds and thus a functioning ecosystem.