Ophisops elegans - Snake-eyed Lizard

Ophisops elegans
Adult male with bright colours: GR / Ikaria, 11.06.2019

The genus Ophisops is a mainly south-western Asian group of lizards (reaching India to the east). They all share the "snake-eyed" appearance which is caused by a transparent fixed eyelid. The only European representative of the genus is Ophisops elegans (subspecies macrodactylus), a delicate lizard which can show bright colours in spring.

 

In our area, it occurs on the southeastern tip of the Balkan Peninsula and numerous eastern Aegean islands. Remarkably, it didn't cross the Mid Aegean Trench westward and therefore lacks on the Cyclades.

The Snake-eyed Lizard inhabits a broad range of habitats: coastal dunes and gardens as well as rocky areas and forests in the mountains. However. this species doesn’t climb much and is rather ground-dwelling.

 

It can be distinguished from other species by its "rough" scales, the fixed eyelid and the sharp-edged supra-ocular scales which give them a "stern" appearance.

 

Within its European distribution range, it co-occurs with the following species:

Ophisops elegans
The European range of Ophisops elegans.

Ophisops elegans
Male: GR / Ikaria, 11.06.2019 - A fixed transparent eyelid generates the "snake-eyed" appearance.
Ophisops elegans
Female: GR / Ikaria, 11.06.2019: Females have a less contrasty pattern on flanks.
Ophisops elegans
Male: GR / Rhodos, 28.03.2017 - Note the sharp-edged supra-ocular scales.
Ophisops elegans
Female: GR / Rhodos, 28.03.2017 - These ground-dwelling lizards may be abundant in coastal dunes.
Ophisops elegans
Coastal habitat of Ophisops elegans in southern Rhodos.