This curious reptile can be seen on the highest altitudes of the Estrela Mountain, taking advantage of the flat granite outcrops. It is an exclusive species to the mountainous areas of Cantabria and Galicia (Spain) and Estrela Mountain (Portugal). It is therefore an Iberian endemic.
In Portugal, the only population of this reptile occurs above 1400 metres in Estrela Mountain, preferring rocky areas in open landscapes. The Torre Plateau is the place with the best habitats and where the highest concentration of the Iberian Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta monticola) can be found.
This medium-sized lizard can reach over 20 cm in length and is sexually dimorphic, especially in terms of colour. Males are more greenish and females are greyish-brown. It is active during spring and summer, but goes into lethargy for part of the year in order to overcome the cold temperatures of the autumn and winter months.
The Portuguese population of the Iberian Rock Lizard is concentrated in an area of 57km², and is circumscribed at altitude, which emphasises its geographical isolation. This makes the species vulnerable to various threat factors that could affect its survival.
In Estrela Mountain, this is one of the animal species that could suffer from the impact of climate change, as temperatures rise and rainfall decreases. It may seem contradictory, given that we’re talking about a reptile that benefits from the heat and could see its period of activity extended. But the truth is that the fact that it takes refuge in altitude and has adapted to the demanding conditions of the mountains has kept it safe from most predators and from competition with other lizards, a reality that could change drastically with environmental changes. A recent phenomenon that is interfering with the Iberian Rock Lizard’s habitat is the displacement of rocks or the piling up of stones by tourists visiting the mountains.