The Naturalist on Chios, Greece.

Mike Taylor , Liverpool Museum.

Lizards and Snakes on Chios.

One of the most noticeable lizards on Chios is the Turkish Gecko, Hemidactylus turcicus, which is common and can often be seen in houses and near outside lighting on external walls.This gecko is pale coloured and can be seen actively persuing its insect prey at night. Its darker relative Kotschys Gecko, Cyrodactylus kotschyi, is also widespread and common, though it does not come into houses. It lives amongst rocks and stones from which it emerges to persue its insect prey.

One of the most ubiquitous and noticable is the Agama Lizard, Agama stellio, which is very active by day in the warmer months of the year, when it can be seen on stone walls, rocks and craggy places. Its appearance is very reminiscent of the Marine Iguana, so familiar to viewers of natural history films of the Galapagos Islands.

The Wall Lizard, Podarcis muralis, and Erhards Wall Lizard, Podarcis erhardii are both common throughout the island and are both smoother and less 'craggy' in appearance than the Agama Lizard.

The Green Lizard, Lacerta stellio, is very noticeable because of its very attractive green to yellowish-green colour, which can appear almost fluorescent in certain light conditions.

One of the most unusual snakes to be found on Chios is the Worm Snake, Typhlops vermicularis, which I have found from time to time under stones in grassy and vegetated places behind the beaches at Kato Fana and Managros. It looks like a long thin pink worm with small beady black eyes. This snake is quite small, the specimens I have seen being only about ten inches in length. Another small snake which is very common is the Dwarf Snake, Eirenis collaris, this snake is unusual for a European snake in that it feeds exclusively on insects.

The Grass Snake, Natrix natrix, is also very common, where it favours aquatic habitats in which it can pursue its favourite prey, frogs. I have seen it most often amongst the reedbeds and marsh plants in the marshy spring fed ground just to the northwest of Lagkarda.

One of the most attractively patterned snakes is the Leopard Snake, Elaphe situla, which has a most colourful and attractive mosaic pattern which can be of a variety of colour forms. This snake can grow up to about a metre in length and is common on Chios. A number of them live in the Choremi estate in the centre of Chios Town where they perform a good service by preying on the mice which feed on spilt grain provided for a collection of domestic and ornamental Game Birds. If provoked, this snake, which is a non-venomous constrictor, pretends to be a Rattle Snake by raising and vibrating the tip of its tail as part of a threat / warning display.

One of the largest snakes to be found on the island is the generally distributed, non venomous Aesculaian Snake, Elaphe longissima, which grows up to two metres in length. This snake also has a number of different colour forms, one of the most attractive ones I have seen was about one and a half metres long and most of its body was a rich shiny dark brown in colour, the front 20cm or so was a bright shimmering copper colour. I found this snake two or three years ago on the bank of the seasonal stream / agricultural track which joins the beach at Limnos near Volissos.

The Sand Boa, Eryx jaculus, occurs locally on the island, one was seen recently near the shore between the airport and Chios Town.

The only venomous snake on Chios, which can deliver a potentially fatal bite if untreated, is the Ottoman Viper, Vipera xanthina, this snake can grow up to metres in length and is strongly built. Whilst it can be seen occasionally, usually as a road casualty in central and southern areas of Chios, its stronghold is the northwest of the island to the north of Volissos and to the west of Leptopoda. This is the best area for the visiting naturalist to seek them out, with due care and diligence, and observe these attractive snakes. It is regretable that so many snakes are deliberately killed by being run over by motor vehicles, as over 99% of road casualties are likely to be non-venomous species and harmless to man. Indeed the vast majority of indiginous snakes perform a service by helping to keep rats and mice under control.


© M.J.Taylor 2003. - email: mike.taylor(at) 

Home - Map of Chios - Introduction - Birds on Chios - Wildflowers on Chios - Insects on Chios - Butterflies and Moths - Bees, Wasps and Ants - Flies - Snakeflies, Antlions and Lacewings - Dragonflies - Beetles - Grasshoppers and Crickets - Scorpions and Spiders on Chios - Mammals on Chios - Frogs and Toads on Chios - Lizards and Snakes on Chios - Armadillos, Terrapins and Tortoises on Chios - Marine Fish on Chios - Photographs - Acknowledgements