Western Canaries Lizard
Updated: Aug 26, 2019
The genus Gallotia is entirely endemic to the Canary Islands and it includes the Western Canaries lizard (Gallotia galloti). It is believed it appeared shortly after the emersion of the first islands of the archipelago 20 million years ago. The ancestors of the Western Canaries lizard then arrived 10 million years ago to the occidental islands, of a more recent origin. Consequently, this species belongs to the younger lineage of the genus.
Four subspecies have been recognized, probably based on the large differences in color pattern in adult males: G. g. eisentrauti from northern Tenerife, G. g. galloti from central and southern Tenerife, G. g. insulanagae from the offshore Roque de Fuera de Anaga, and G. g. palmae from La Palma. Recently, it has been introduced to El Hierro and Fuerteventura, in Morro Jable.
The upper part has small-sized scales and the belly has 12-14 rows of longitudinal scales. The color is variable, but in all subspecies the males have a black head, which highlights its yellow iris; and a dark-colored body with blue ocelli on its sides, which are larger on dominant males. Males from the windward side of the islands, i.e. the subspecies G. g. eisentrauti from northern Tenerife and the northern variety of G. g. palmae from La Palma, are more colorful than their southern counterparts, exhibiting a striking blue color that covers its neck, transversal yellowish green lines on its back and a reddish background on the posterior end of its body. It owes several local names to these traits, like «barbazul» in La Palma, which means “blue beard”, and «verdino» in Tenerife, meaning “bright green”. Females and juveniles have longitudinal brown lines on their back. Males are larger than females, and the largest sizes are attained by individuals from northern Tenerife.
They are born insectivorous and their diet tends to become increasingly herbivorous as they grow. They themselves are preys of owls, kestrels and ravens. They thrive in nearly every habitat on La Palma and Tenerife. It is very common in rocky open shrublands and is less common in forested areas, like laurel forests. Their curious nature has allowed them to get used to human presence. A population from Cañadas del Teide accepts –and even steals– food from visitors.