Thursday, 25 February 2016

Melanistic Lizard

Yesterday, Bob and I met up for our weekly walkabout; Ashdown Forest being our destination. The temperature didn't rise above 5 degrees but with the sun shining and very little wind, there was the promise of singing Woodlarks and perhaps a raptor or two.

Our first interesting sighting of the day was a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) gliding over the heather and momentarily basking on a gorse stump before heading off in search of nectar. By this time, several Woodlarks were singing their beautiful songs and Spring was definitely in the air.

As we wandered through the heathland, I noticed a familiar form basking in the dead bracken with its body pressed flat for maximum effect.. Because of its dark colour I immediately thought that I had spotted a newt but on closer inspection the scaled head indicated that this black creature was a melanistic Common Lizard (Lacerta vivipara). I don't know how frequently this form occurs in  L.vivipara  but it was definitely a first for me.

Common Lizard (Lacerta vivipara) (melanistic form)

By contrast, I have seen at least two melanistic Adders in the wild in recent years and the following photograph was of one seen in a Wealden wood in 2013.
Adder (Vipera berus) (melanistic form)

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