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hot spots

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 (Speleomantes flavus) 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 (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). 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.

Castelsardo, Sardinia © Per Blomberg

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.

Cascades des Anglais, Corsica © Per Blomberg

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 to visit.

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, (Testudo graeca), March Frog, (Pelophylax ridibundus), Ottoman Viper, (Montivipera xanthina), Yellow Bellied Toad, (Bombina variegata), Common Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris), European Pond Tortoise, (Emys orbicularis), Balkan Terrapin, (Mauremys rivulata), Erhard's Wall Lizard (Podarcis erhardii), Balkan Green Lizard, (Lacerta trilineata), Green Lizard, (Lacerta viridis), Common Toad (Bufo bufo), Common Tree Frog (Hyla arborea), Dice Snake, (Natrix tessellata), Eastern Montpellier Snake, (Malpolon insignitus) and Large Whip Snake, (Dolichophis caspius) and Green Toad, (Epidalea viridis). The most exiting was the European Glass Lizard (Pseudopus apodus) we found dead, driven over just one minute before we arrived!

View of mountains north of Drama, Greece © Anders Selmer

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 ammodytes).

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 scalaris).

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, (Iberolacerta 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.

Anders with Frog in Ordesa © Per Blomberg

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, (Vipera seoanei). 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 Bosca’s 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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