Discovery of “Podarcis raffonei”, a very rare Aeolian lizard


Aeolian lizard
A specimen of Podarcis raffonei, or Aeolian lizard, sunbathing on a rock. Image credit Wikipedia.
Daniel Ingemi Daniel Ingemi 4 minutes

Smaller islands represent hitherto uncontaminated ecosystems which, if well preserved, can provide incredible surprises from a natural point of view. The volcanic archipelago of the Aeolian Islands is an example of this. It is here, on these islands, far from the mainland, that some very special endemic animal species have been preserved.

One of them is undoubtedly You will give raffoneibetter known as Aeolian lizard. It is an endemic species exclusively on the Aeolian Islands. Currently, it occurs only in four geographically isolated stations. The areas it lives in are: the island of Vulcano (especially the Vulcanello area) and three small islets: Strombolicchio, La Canna di Filicudi and Scoglio Faraglione di Salina.

An example of Strombolicchio

Around fifty specimens are present on Strombolicchio and over time they survived despite the bombing of the top part of the small islet, which occurred at the end of the nineteenth century due to the construction of a lighthouse. These specimens that live in Strombolicchio are larger than other populations and are characterized by a darker color.

This lizard resembles the Sicilian lizard and just like it reaches a maximum length of 25 cm including the tail. The difference lies in the color, which is darker in the Aeolian lizard.

Why is it at high risk of extinction?

The Aeolian lizard is one of the most endangered vertebrates in Italy and certainly the first among reptiles, it was included among the critically endangered (CR) species in the IUCN Red List.

Currently, according to the latest studies, a population of approximately 920-1380 individuals is recorded, occurring on a total area of ​​approx. 20,000 m2.

Unfortunately, most populations would likely have undergone local extinction in recent times due to competitive exclusion processes that occurred after colonization of the archipelago field lizard, Podarcis siculus.

Strombolicchio rock, home to the local subspecies of the Aeolian lizard.

Competition with the field lizard, which comes from the mainland and arrives on the islands via sea transport, seriously threatens the species and poses a very real danger.

The area where the species survives

The current area of ​​occurrence of this species is limited to the Aeolian Islands and is divided into four isolated and relatively remote stations, it is located in the fragmented areas of Vulcano Island (especially the Vulcanello area) and on three small islets: Strombolicchio (Stromboli Island rock), La Canna (Filicudi) and Scoglio Faraglione (Salina).

It is believed that once the area where the Aeolian lizard lived was much larger than today and included the entire Aeolian archipelago. It would gradually decline due to competition with the field lizard (Podarcis sicula), introduced by man probably around 7,000 BC The two species currently coexist only on the island of Vulcano.

In Vulcano stations, it inhabits scrubby scrub. On the Strombolicchio rock it occupies the summit areas where the vegetation is densest, while on the La Canna rock the species has adapted to life on rocky substrates with little vegetation.


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