miked's picture

Common lizard

Observed: 29th August 2008 By: miked
iSpot team
Amphibians and Reptiles expert
Common lizard 4142

How do reptiles survive low temperatures. It was -34C at this location last week and can be well below zero for several months. how do these reptiles avoid being frozen?

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Blewit Boy's picture

Try this link................

miked's picture

Thanks, interesting, I've

Thanks, interesting, I've seen some of the reptiles they mention at the top of snowy mountains in USA which also get cold winters but in those cases there were forests with plenty of rocks and caves so it was fairly clear where they could go whereas the lizard was out in the open on allotments.

Anyway no cold excuse for lack of lizards in British Isles.

Blewit Boy's picture

I found a small.............

I found a small lizard in my parents garden once. It was beneath a piece of plank wood that had lain on the ground for quite a while. When i picked it up it did it's playing dead act - but I knew it was alive because it occasionally it would make a small movement. I put him back afterwards though, safe and sound. I also find slow worms my parents compost heaps. I guess they might be a good place for reptiles to overwinter being a bit warmer due to the heat generated through aerobic decomposition.


the naturalist man's picture

Hibernating lizards

The information given at the site you recommend, Chris, is correct. They simply find a hole in the ground, snuggle down and lower their body temperature and metabolic rate (the speed the bodies organs work at, eg heart rate).

However, before you breath a sigh of relief for our poor reptiles consider we are not British Columbia where it regularly drops well below freezing in winter. There the reptiles are habituated and have adapted to very low winter temperatures and find very deep holes or survive their cells freezing. Here we have had a series of mild winters and it is possible our reptiles would be habituated to not needing to find holes more than a few inches deep to last the winter. If so then many may not have been deep enough to be below the ground frost. As far as I'm aware all of our reptiles rely on getting deep enough to avoid freezing rather than having adaptations to cope with their cells freezing.

Sorry Mike, we may yet see the cold winter being blamed for a lack of reptiles in Britain. Let us hope I'm wrong!

Graham Banwell

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