Last updated 8 June 2014: added Articles on Spanish Reptiles and Amphibians and other Spanish wildlife.
This page is dedicated to the herpetological wildlife of Europe, its reptiles and amphibians. Too often those of us in Europe and North America have concentrated on the more exotic species from the tropics and deserts of the world, neglecting those species on our own front doorstep. Furthermore, many of these animals are having a hard time due to changing climate patterns and human activity, so it is high time they were highlighted.
Much of this information was initially taken from the Hamlyn Colour Guide Reptiles and Amphibians by Vaclav Lanka and Zbysek Vit, initially published in Prague, 1985. The colour drawings and illustrations by Libuse and Jaromir Knotek are beautiful and certainly inspired me to find out more about our native reptiles and amphibians. This book is well worth reading if you are interested in European herps, although it is possibly out of print and some of the taxonomic information is certainly out of date. More recently within the past few years we have updated the information from other sources (see Bibliography), and of course the Internet has been a tremendous source of useful data, especially the JCVI/TIGR Reptile Database and more recently AmphibiaWeb and Livingunderworld (although the latter may now be defunct). Finally, we have added an extra page on the conservation and captive keeping of European reptiles and amphibians.
As of 2006 we have also somewhat extended the area covered by these pages to include Turkey and even some Caucasian species. This is firstly because German sources (as opposed to English-speaking) seem to regard Turkey and the Caucasus as European, or at least not Asian or Middle Eastern, and secondly because so many British and other European tourists and holidaymakers now regularly visit Turkey. For the same reason Cypriot species will also be covered where information is available, although one could argue that Cyprus is more properly a part of the Levant or Middle East. I am aware that North Africa likewise has a similar fauna to other Meditteranean countries: in fact many of the species listed here also show North Africa as part of their range, so if you have visited any of the countries around the southern shores of the Mediterranean then this guide may also be useful to you.
Firstly, if you don't know much about reptiles and amphibians, or are concerned about whether they are harmful or not, click on the "Reptiles and Amphibians - a primer!" section (below).
Secondly, if you wish to see the reptiles and amphibians that live in a particular country, click on the "List of European Reptiles and Amphibians by Country".
In the section below that on individual species, each page lists European species of a particular group, eg lacertid lizards or toads, etc. Within that page there is an entry for each species of that type. The entry contains the species name (a Latin binomial name containing the genus in capitals and the species in lower case), the common name by which it is usually known, the countries and areas in which it is found, its size and some notes on its appearance, habitat, behaviour, coloration and so forth. Many entries also contain more specific details on the physical appearance of the animal: this applies in particular to snakes and lizards, which can often be told apart from one another by details of their scalation. Some of this data may appear somewhat technical, but don't be put off - in the wild you are unlikely to get close enough to count scales before the creature disappears! For most people, the general description and coloration will be enough to give them some idea of what they have just seen or may see.
Please remember that most if not all species are protected by international, national or local laws. If you really want to keep one or more of these animals in captivity, buy captive-bred individuals from genuine breeders.
Read the above section if you're not sure about reptiles and amphibians, what they are, how they live and whether they're dangerous.
Family Salamandridae: Newts and Salamanders
Family Plethodontidae: Lungless Salamanders
Family Proteidae: The Olm
Order SQUAMATA [Scaled Reptiles]
Suborder SERPENTES [Snakes]
Suborder SAURIA [Lizards]
Family LACERTIDAE [Lacertids]
Family SCINCIDAE [Skinks]
Family GEKKONIDAE [Geckos]
Family ANGUIDAE [Anguids]
Family AGAMIDAE [Agamids]
Family CHAMELEONIDAE [Chameleons]
Suborder AMPHISBAENIDAE [Amphisbaenians]
Order CHELONIA [Tortoises and Turtles]
The Physical Geography of Europe - an introduction
Anurans in South London - local wildlife in unlikely places
Reptiles and Amphibians, Vaclav Lanka and Zbysek Vit, Hamlyn Colour Guide, Prague, 1985
Die Amphibien Europas, Andreas and Christel Nöllert, Franckh-Kosmos, Stuttgart, 1992.
A Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Britain and Europe, E N Arnold, J A Burton, D W Ovenden, Collins 1978: 2nd edition 2002, reprinted with corrections 2004. The latest version has been a very useful source of information and also seems to have extended the range somewhat.
Lurche und Kriechtiere Europas, Wolf-Eberhard Engelmann, Jürgen Fritzsche, Rainer Günther and Fritz-Jürgen Obst, Ferdinand Enke Verlag, Stuttgart, 1986.
Nick Lloyd's IberiaNature site offers an extensive coverage of wildlife in Spain, including reptiles and amphibians. Well worth a visit, has some good photos, useful information and dictionary of related terms in Spanish, Catalan and related languages.
EMBL reptile database - the best Internet resource I have found for up-to-date taxonomy and bibliographies for reptile species.
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