The herptile species in Europe are not evenly distributed and some areas have
a comparable high concentration or several endemic species and can be called hot spots. Mainly those sites
are located in the south of Europe where the climate is favourable and in areas with less
human impact. Especially amphibians are dependent on wetlands and smaller ponds
for survival and the drainage of the Mediterranean landscape has empowered the
herpetofauna in huge areas. On islands many animals develop special features
that can develop in unique species by time. On the bigger ones like Sardinia,
Corsica and Sicily we find several endemic species and probably more are to be
found with further research. Here we give some examples of hotspots for
herpetofauna in Europe.
Sardinia is a medium sized island but probably the one with the most exiting
herpetofauna. It has a hilly countryside with more mountains in the central east
part. Here the landscape is of carst type with a lot of caves and holes that
provides opportunities for several different species of cave salamanders (Speleomantes
sp.). Gene's Cave Salamander (Speleomantes
genei), Scented Cave Salamander (Speleomantes
imperialis), Sopramonte Cave Salamander (Speleomantes
supramontis) all live in this area and the fourth, Monte Albo Cave Salamander
lives in the northern mountains on the island. These animals are not just found
in big caves but can also be seen in smaller holes and humid forests with old
trees. There is also an endemic newt to be found,
Sardinian Brook Newt (Euproctus platycephalus).
Several species are shared with Corsica, like Tyrrhenian painted frog
sardus), Tyrrhenian Tree Frog (Hyla sarda), European
leaf-toed gecko (Euleptes europaea), Pygmy Algyroides (Algyroides
fitzingeri), Bedriagas Rock Lizard (Archaeolacerta
bedriagae) and Tyrrhenian Wall Lizard (Podarcis
tiliguerta). On Sardinia also Marginated Tortoise (Testudo
marginata) can be found. Probably this population has been brought to
the island a long time ago from Greece and Turkey. In total 27 species have been
found on Sardina.
Corsica is like Sardinia a big island in the Mediterranean with several endemic
species. Corsica is more mountainous than Sardinia and have huge alpine and
forested areas in the central part. The coasts are mostly cultivated but
especially on the west side forests still exist and wooded pastures are present
in the hilly landscape. The south part around Bonifacio is splendid with
limestone cliffs rising steep from the sea. Among the endemic species we find
Corsican Salamander (Salamandra corsica), Corsican Brook Newt
(Euproctus montanus) and Corsican Painted Frog (Discoglossus montalentii).
Several Tyrrhenian species can be found on both islands like Tyrrhenian
painted frog (Discoglossus
sardus), Tyrrhenian Tree Frog (Hyla sarda), European Leaf-toed
Gecko (Euleptes europaea), Pygmy Algyroides (Algyroides
fitzingeri), Bedriagas Rock Lizard (Archaeolacerta
bedriagae) and Tyrrhenian Wall Lizard (Podarcis
tiliguerta). There are several interesting places to go to on the island
and for the salamanders the central mountains west of Corte is to recommend. In
total 18 species have been found on Corsica.
These small islands east of the Iberian peninsula have three endemic
species and one introduced North African species. Majorcan Midwife Toad
(Alytes muletensis) occur in a small area on Majorca in the Sierra de la
Tramuntana. Moroccan Rock Lizard, (Scelarcis perspicillata) has been
introduced from North Africa some time ago to Minorca and some places along the
coast on Mallorca. Lilford's Wall Lizard, (Podarcis lilfordi) lives
with small populations on several places on the islands. One population is in
the harbour of Mahon on Minorca. Ibiza Wall Lizard, (Podarcis
pityusensis) is endemic to Ibiza and Formentera but has also been introduced
to Palma on Majorca. In total at least 16 species can be found on the islands.
This small Greek island has a very interesting herpetofauna with two endemic
species and several subspecies. In total 11 species are found on the small
island. Most famous are the Milos Viper, (Macrovipera
schweizeri) and the Milos Wall Lizard, (Podarcis milensis). The Podarcis is widely spread in cultivated areas with stonewalls wile
the vipers mostly are found on meadows and pastures on the less cultivated west
part. Other species are Leopard Snake, (Elaphe situla), Cat
snake, (Telescopus fallax), Kotschy's Gecko (Mediodactylus
kotschyi), Snake-eyed Skink, (Ablepharus kitaibelii) and
Balkan Terrapin, (Mauremys rivulata). The Balkan Green Lizard,
(Lacerta trilineata) on the island is concerned as an endemic subspecies
hansschweizeri and the Marsh frog (Pelophylax ridibundus) complex may
consists of new species. The
island consists of maccis, scrubland up to some meters in height and do not have
any forests. The east part is more developed and cultivated but the west part
still remains quite natural in most parts. Huge scale mining is a very obvious
exploitation in several places. Lakes are rare but on the shore of the south
west side of the northern bay there is a small lake that is highly recommended
This most southern island in the European area has a dry and hot climate and
also high mountains covered with snow during the winter. Cretan Water Frog,
(Pelophylax cretensis) is the
only endemic species yet known. An other interesting and rare species is
Mediterranean Chameleon, (Chamaeleo
chamaeleon). Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata) is quite common
and Balkan Terrapin (Mauremys rivulata) is found in
the only lake on the west part of the central north side. In total 15 species
has been found on Crete.
The southern tip of the Greek mainland consists of a very varied landscape
and host a huge variety in herpetofauna. African Chameleon, (Chamaeleo africanus),
Greek Rock Lizard (Hellenolacerta graeca),
Peloponnese Wall Lizard (Podarcis peloponnesiacus) and
Peloponnese Slow Worm, (Anguis cephallonica) are all endemic to the
area and there are many rare species with a somewhat wider distribution. Nice areas to visit are the Taigetos mountains
in the south, Kalogria wetlands in the west, Pilos in the south and Monemvasia
in the south east. At Monemvasia you find a warm climate and species like
Marginated Tortoise, (Testudo
marginata), Hermann's Tortoise, (Eurotestudo
hermanni), Greek Algyroides, (Algyroides
moreoticus), Worm Snake, (Typhlops vermicularis),
European Glass Lizard, (Pseudopus apodus), Dahl's Whip Snake
(Platyceps najadum) and Eastern Montpellier Snake, (Malpolon
insignitus). More species are Kotschy's Gecko, (Mediodactylus
kotschyi) and Sand Boa (Eryx jaculus). 43 species in total
have been found in Peloponnese!
Evros and Dadia
The north western part of Greece along the border to Turkey is on of the most
species rich areas in Europe. The varied landscape with mountains in the
north, huge wooded pastures and woodlands, wetlands, rivers and creeks gives the
circumstances. During our visit in 1998 we saw Spur-tighed Tortoise,
graeca), March Frog,
ridibundus), Ottoman Viper,
xanthina), Yellow Bellied Toad,
(Bombina variegata), Common Newt
vulgaris), European Pond Tortoise,
(Emys orbicularis), Balkan Terrapin,
rivulata), Erhard's Wall Lizard
erhardii), Balkan Green Lizard,
(Lacerta trilineata), Green Lizard,
viridis), Common Toad
Common Tree Frog
arborea), Dice Snake,
(Natrix tessellata), Eastern Montpellier Snake, (Malpolon
insignitus) and Large Whip Snake,
caspius) and Green Toad,
viridis). The most exiting was the European Glass Lizard
(Pseudopus apodus) we found dead, driven over just one minute before we
South West Bulgaria
In the Strouva River valley, close to the Greek boarder in south west Bulgaria, a very diverse herpetofauna is to be found.
This is an area with favorable climate and an intersection between several natural geographic regions that contribute to the diversity.
Many Mediterranean species are found in this area. In total 34 species (10 amphibians and 24 reptiles) have been reported.
Interesting species areEastern Spadefoot (Pelobates syriacus), Leopard Snake, (Elaphe
situla), Eastern Montpellier Snake, (Malpolon insignitus) and
Cat Snake, (Telescopus fallax) and Nose-horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes).
Important sites in the area are slopes between 450 and 600 meter, the Tissata reserve in the southern end of Kresna gorge and the volcanic hill Kojuha
between Petrich and Sandanski, which both are protected. East of the valley the mountains of Pirin are rising and here can be found species as Viviparous Lizard
(Zootoca vivipara), Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis)
and Adder (Vipera berus) spread at the altitude more than 800 - 1000 m a s l. In total 37 species in a small area.
Source: V.A. Beshkov, 1984 and Andrey Kovatchev 2004.
Bulgarian Black Sea Coast
In the Ropotamo-Maslen Nos area along the Bulgarian Sea coast east of Sozopol as much as 31 species have been found, 8 amphibians and 23 reptiles. 6
of those are on the red list and 19 are protected by the state. This is the only
place to se Reddish Whip Snake, (Platyceps collaris) in
the country and most of Europe. Source: V.A. Beshkov 1984.
Dobrogea (south-east Romania)
In the south east part of Romania, between the Danube Delta in the north and the Bulgarian border in the south, and between Danube river in the west and
the Black Sea in the east, there is an area with interesting herpetofauna. Rare species in Europe which can be seen here are the Danube Crested Newt
(Triturus dobrogicus), Steppe Runner (Eremias arguta), Meadow Lizard (Lacerta praticola) and Eastern Spadefoot (Pelobates syriacus).
There used to be huge areas with steppe vegetation here, which have been cultivated quite recently. Many species have declined and it
is unsure whether Sandboa (Eryx jaculus) can still be found in the area. Other interesting species found here are the Nose-horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes),
Common Spadefoot (Pelobates fuscus) and Fire-bellied Toad (Bombina bombina). At least 20 more species of herpetofauna have been seen in the area.
The Adriatic coast
In the mountainous karstic landscape along the Adriatic coast several endemic
species have evolved. Olm, (Proteus anguinus)
is the only species of its kind in Europe and
lives in ponds in the caves. Dalmatian Algyroides (Algyroides
nigropunctatus), Mosor Rock Lizard, (Dinarolacerta mosorensis),
Sharp-snouted Rock Lizard, (Dalmatolacerta oxycephala) and Horvath's
Rock Lizard, (Lacerta horvathi) are all endemic to the region. Here
are also several snakes to be found, for example Balkan Whip Snake (Hierophis
gemonensis), Leopard Snake, (Elaphe situla), Cat Snake,
(Telescopus fallax) and Nose-horned Viper (Vipera
South France is an area with a very high number of amphibians and 25
species have been recorded! In addition to these a large number of reptiles are present as well. Camargue is an interesting area for naturalist in general with
special reputation among birdwatchers. This huge wetland area where the river
Rhone meets the Mediterranean sea is a good base for herpetologists to make
excursions. Most of the species have wide distribution areas and few are limited
to south France. Painted Frog, (Discoglossus
pictus), Stripeless Tree Frog, (Hyla
meridionalis), Ocellated Lizard, (Lacerta
lepida) and Ladder Snake (Rhinechis
In the high mountains dividing Spain and France several different species have evolved.
Aran Rock Lizard, (Iberolacerta aranica) is endemic
and can be found in a small area in the central Pyrenees around
el Macizo de Mauberme. Pyrenean Rock Lizard,
bonnali) has a wider distribution from
el macizo de Arriel
in the west to the national park
de Aigüestortes in the east.
Aurelio's Rock Lizard, (Iberolacerta aurelioi) has several but very
small populations in the eastern part of
the central Pyrenees to Andorra (Montroig, Pica d'Estats and
Pedrosa-Tristaina-Serrera are three important mountain areas).
Pyrenean Brook Newt (Calotriton asper) is spread through the whole
Pyrenees where the habitat is right. Pyrenean Frog, (Rana pyrenaica)
has a western distribution, west of the National park Ordesa. Asp viper, (Vipera aspis)
can be found in many parts of the Pyrenees and areas around as well as the alps
and some few other places in Europe. An easy area to
visit is Ordesa National park in the central Pyrenees.
NW Spain and N Portugal
The northwest of Spain differs from the rest of the Iberian peninsula by it's high
humidity during the hole year, mild winters and cool summers. This is an area
that hosts many species that are rare in the rest of the Iberian peninsula. For
example Golden-striped Salamander, (Chioglossa lusitanica) can be
found in the area, Schreiber's Green Lizard, (Lacerta schreiberi),
Bocage's Wall Lizard, (Podarcis bocagei) and Seoane's Viper,
Good areas to visit are the Geres National park in Portugal on the northern border to Spain, Somiedo
valley and Picos the Europa National park in the Cantabrian mountains in Spain.
Monfrague is a nature park in the northeast part of the Extremadura district of
the central Iberian Peninsula. The typical landscape is wooded pastures with
extended areas covered by scattered old oaks. The landscape is hilly to smoothly
modulate. Here the winters are harsh and cool with hot and dry summers. In the
park the river Tajo passes some smaller ridges and makes the canyon by the cliff
Pena Falcon where the main attraction, vultures and black storks, are nesting.
But apart from being a good bird watching place this is also a very good site
for herpetofauna. During my three visits (89, 92, and 94) I have seen 16 species
and here are several more to be found. In the early 1990's you could still
camp in the village Monfrague in the park but now that is prohibited and you
have to go about 20 km north on the road to Placencia to find the nearest
camp site. When we camped here in June 1994 a small waterhole near the camping
were hosting both Sharp-ribbed Newt, (Pleurodeles waltl) and
Southern Marbled Newt, (Triturus pygmaeus). Most species I have seen have
been found around the village Monfrague. The most exiting were the Western
Spadefoot, (Pelobates cultripes) and Iberian Worm Lizard (Blanus
cinereus). We also found False Smooth Snake, (Macroprotodon brevis),
Ocellated Lizard (Timon lepidus), Green Lizard, (Lacerta
viridis) and Large Psammodromus, (Psammodromus algirus) around
the village. In the small ponds along the creek west of the hamlet we found
Boscas Newt, (Lissotriton boscai), Grass Snake, (Natrix natrix)
and Viperine Snake, (Natrix maura). In the area we also found
Stripeless Tree Frog, (Hyla meridionalis) and in the dammed river you
can find Common Toad, (Bufo bufo) and Spanish Terrapin (Mauremys
leprosa). Iberian Frog (Rana iberica) was seen further up the
river just above the dam in the northern part of the park. South of the ridge we
found Midwife Toad (Alytes obstetricans) in a stream by the road.
In the park there are several paths to use but outside those and in the
surrounding landscape you are not allowed to walk and will be chased by armed
landowners if they see you.
This island close to the Turkish mainland has a very interesting herpetofauna. Among the rare species you can find
Ottoman Viper (Montivipera xanthina), Pelophylax cerigensis, Starred Agama (Laudakia stellio), Ocellated Skink (Chalcides ocellatus),
Levant Skink (Euprepes auratus), Anatolian Worm lizard (Blanus strauchi), Worm Snake (Typhlops vermicularis),
Snake-eyed Lacertid (Ophisops elegans) and Anatolian Rock Lizard (Lacerta anatolica). There are also
Hermannīs Tortoise (Eurotestudo hermanni), Snake-eyed Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii) and some other species with wider distribution to be found.
The subspecies of Tree Frog (Hyla arborea cretennsis) is by some considered an own species, Hyla kretensis. In total impressive 30 species have been found on Rhodes.
The island is just 80 km long and 35 km wide and can easily be explored. It is also a very popular destination for charter tourism with a lot of accommodations and cheap flight tickets.
Read more on the reports page have a look at www.herpetofauna.at.
Korfu is the northern island in the Ionian arqepelago on the Greek westcoast. The island is famous for the exceptional green environment and has preserved more forest than most island in the area.
The herpetofauna is very interesting with 8 amphibians and 23 reptilians. Among the species you can find Aesculapian Snake (Zamenis longissimus), Catsnake (Telescopus fallax),
Marginated Tortoise (Testudo marginata), Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta), Leopard Snake (Elaphe situla), Sand Boa (Eryx jaculus thracicus) and European Glass Lizard (Pseudopus apodus).
Other species are Common Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris graecus), Italian Crested Newt (Triturus carnifex), Pelophylax epeiroticus - Pelophylax ridibundus complex, Worm Snake (Typhlops vermicularis),
Dice Snake (Natrix tessellata), Starred Agama (Laudakia stellio), Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata), Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis), Balkan Wall Lizard (Podarcis tauricus), Hermannīs Tortoise (Eurotestudo hermanni boettgeri),
Large Whip Snake (Dolichophis caspius), Balkan Whip Snake (Hierophis gemonensis), Four-lined Snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata), Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis), Balkan Terrapin (Mauremys rivulata),
Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) and Snake-eyed Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii). Some blokes from www.herpetofauna.at have also visited Corfu.
This is a small island quite far from the mainland and depending on this situation the herpetofauna is quite rich with nine species. As on many isolated islands there is an endemic species, the Maltese Wall Lizard
(Podarcis filfolensis), wich is the only podarcis here. Two very rare species are the Algerian Whip Snake (Hemorrhois algirus) and the Mediterranean Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon),
both probably introduced during the 19th century. The Whip snake is rare on the southeast part of the island, while the Chameleon is found on several sites. Another probably introduced species is the Cat Snake (Telescopus fallax)
which can be found in the same area as the Algerian Whip Snake. More spread is Leopard Snake (Elaphe situla) and Western Whip Snake (Hierophis viridiflavus).
Here are just two species of amphibians to be found, the rare Painted Frog (Discoglossus pictus) and the introduced Levant Water Frog (Pelophylax bedriagae).
Other species on the island are Ocellated Skink (Chalcides ocellatus), Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica) and
Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus).
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