Psammodromus occidentalis - Western Psammodromus

Psammodromus occidentalis
Male, E / Doñana, 10.03.2012

The Western Psammodromus is maybe the most secretive of the three small Spanish Psammodromus species. It occurs on the western Iberian Peninsula only.


It's a small, ground-dwelling species, which can be easily overlooked in its habitats with low vegetation (like coastal phrygana). Furthermore, it may be quite shy. So, if you want to photograph these lizards, take your time - these little beauties are worth to be patient: Males may show bright green or yellow colours during mating season.

Distinguishing between Psammodromus occidentalis and Psammodromus hispanicus by external characters can be difficult. Hence, the exact distribution limit between these species in western-central Spain is unknown so far. Psammodromus occidentalis prefers Atlantic climate with moderate temperatures in winter whereas Psammodromus hispanicus lives in areas with continental climate and cold winters.


Psammodromus edwarsianus differs by its distinct supralabial scale below the subocular scale.


Due to its characteristic back pattern of black and white bars, Psammodromus occidentalis can hardly be confused with other small Lacertid lizards in its range.


(Sub-)Adult Acanthodactylus erythrurus may have similar patterns but are much bigger.

Psammodromus occidentalis
Psammodromus occidentalis inhabits the western part of the Iberian Peninsula although its exact distribution limits are poorly known.

Psammodromus occidentalis
Male, P / Bordeira, 15.04.2017: These lizards are beautiful - but small, as the Helianthemum flower in the right part of the picture illustrates.
Psammodromus occidentalis
Female, P / Bordeira, 15.04.2017
Psammodromus occidentalis
Well-vegetated coastal dunes in Western Algarve (Portugal): In such habitats, Psammodromus occidentalis can occur in good numbers but may be easily overlooked.