Herpetofauna of Europe : milos & skyros - greece (may-june 2006)
Herpetofauna of Europe European Amphibians & Reptiles

Herpetological trip to Milos and Skyros islands (Greece)
24th of May – 5th of June 2006

All pictures (c) of Jeroen Speybroeck.

Attracted by their endemic herpetofauna, we visited the Aegean islands Milos (Cyclades) and Skyros (Northern Sporades). Both islands are equally small so we were able to see most of both of them. Because of transportation constraints, we also had to spend some time on the mainland (Attica). Because this time was limited and our stay on the mainland should be regarded as only a small extra to our trip, we were of course unable to find all species present. On Milos, we found all eleven of the island’s known herp species, while on Skyros we missed one of its –also- eleven species, Leopard Snake (Zamenis situla), apart from some more doubtful records of other species. In total (and with considerable overlap in species composition between both islands and the mainland), twenty-three species of amphibians (4) and reptiles (19) were observed. The time of the year and its temperature did not encourage mid-day searches, so we had to focus on the first and last couple of hours of sunshine, plus some specific searches at night. We were eight people: Jan VDV, Peter, Anniek, Elfriede, Mark, Robert, Stefaan and myself.
I am indebted to Mario Schweiger and Ronald Laan for their hints concerning this trip.
Furthermore, we enjoyed meeting local herpetologists Yannis Ioannidis and Maria Dimaki.

Site details and other specifications will be omitted because of the sensitive state of some species.

overview of prospected sites


After a short stay at Porto Rafti in Attica and finding Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) and Ocellated Skink (Chalcides ocellatus), we flew to Milos on the 25th. The same day, we found Kotschy’s Gecko (Mediodactylus kotschyi), Balkan Terrapin (Mauremys rivulata), Milos Wall Lizard (Podarcis milensis) and Robert found our first Milos Viper (Macrovipera schweizeri). We stayed in Adamas where we found both gecko species again. At night we went out and found Milos Water Frog (Pelophylax sp.) and Grass Snake (Natrix natrix schweizeri), both very rare on the island in correspondence with the limited number of fresh water sources. During the next four and a half days we explored much of the island and found also the other members of its herpetofauna: one Leopard snake (Zamenis situla, forma situla) near an old building, Snake-eyed Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii) crawling in the herbs and dry-stone walls at several places, Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata hansschweizeri) at several occasions and often crossing the roads, and two Cat Snakes (Telescopus fallax) on the road at night. Sadly enough, I hit one of the latter with the car so it had to be put to death.
On the whole, herping on Milos was relatively easy. Catching one of the rare water frogs did, however, take Peter to submerge knee-deep into a clay puddle. Besides that, finding a Leopard Snake is always a matter of a significant portion of luck, which was granted this time to Stefaan. The Milos Viper was of course a major attraction to us. We hope collectors will stop to endanger the species and we wish for them to be bitten by ten vipers at the same time.

this is about the first thing you get to see when approaching Milos by boat ...

Kotschy’s Gecko (Mediodactylus kotschyi)

Milos Wall Lizard (Podarcis milensis)

Robert holding our first viper, Mark taking its picture, and Anniek, Elfriede and Jan on the move in the back

Milos Viper (Macrovipera schweizeri)

the same Milos Viper (Macrovipera schweizeri)

another Milos Viper (Macrovipera schweizeri)

juvenile Milos Viper (Macrovipera schweizeri)

Milos Water Frog (Pelophylax sp.)

Milos Grass Snake (Natrix natrix schweizeri)

black morph of Milos Grass Snake (Natrix natrix schweizeri)

Balkan Green Lizard from Milos (Lacerta trilineata hansschweizeri)

Cat Snake (Telescopus fallax)

Cat Snake (Telescopus fallax)

Leopard Snake (Zamenis situla) – forma situla is typical for Milos animals

Leopard Snake (Zamenis situla)

brackish water lake Achivadolimni

Lestes macrostigma

although nearly dry, this small crevice was where we caught Milos Water Frog

one of the very few water points at the end of May

Yannis and Maria performing data collection on some of the vipers we caught, with Robert, Anniek, Mark, Peter, Jan and Elfriede standing by


On Skyros we only had two whole plus two half days. Some more time might have allowed us to find e.g. more snake specimens but nevertheless we only missed Leopard Snake on this island. Skyros, and especially its northern half, clearly has more water than Milos and this might explain the higher numbers and densities of its wall lizard, Skyros Wall Lizard (Podarcis gaigeae). This species was literally found everywhere on the island, even in harsh and bare-rock environments of the southern half of the island, although in that part they appeared smaller and mostly brownish. The largest and brightest animals were nearly all found near the rich conditions of water sources and human habitation. Often reminding of Balkan Wall Lizard (Podarcis tauricus), although mostly with spotted throats, some individuals also looked like uniformly coloured Dalmatian Wall Lizard (Podarcis melisellensis). Both gecko species were again easy to find, while Water Frog (Pelophylax spec., to our opinion looking somewhat different and calling differently than those from Milos and the mainland), Balkan Terrapin, Grass Snake and Balkan Green Lizard clearly occurred in higher numbers, apparently fitting our water-related hypothesis. Three further species were found in the shape of one individual each: Marginated Tortoise (Testudo marginata), Cat Snake, and Four-lined Snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata). The latter is said to belong to the subspecies scyrensis, which should be rather similar to the Cycladic muenteri. Indeed, our individual did already have its adult pattern at 80cm. Whether this feature can confirm a certain subspecific identification, seems less clear.
Doubtful records of Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis) occurring on this rather small island together with trilineata, seem highly unlikely to us, as we found only the latter, even in the most lush environments.
To sum it up, Skyros deserves more field herping attention than it has obtained until now.

Because the Skyros Wall Lizard is relatively unknown, I will present somewhat more pictures, in order to document its morphological variability.

Skyros Wall Lizard (Podarcis gaigeae)

Skyros Wall Lizard (Podarcis gaigeae)

Skyros Wall Lizard (Podarcis gaigeae)

Skyros Wall Lizard (Podarcis gaigeae)

Skyros Wall Lizard (Podarcis gaigeae)

Skyros Wall Lizard (Podarcis gaigeae)

Skyros Wall Lizard (Podarcis gaigeae)

Skyros Wall Lizard (Podarcis gaigeae)

Water Frog from Skyros (Pelophylax sp.)

Balkan Terrapin (Mauremys rivulata)

Grass Snake (Natrix natrix)

Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata)

Marginated Tortoise (Testudo marginata)

tortoise photography with Elfriede, Jan, Robert, Stefaan and Peter

Cat Snake (Telescopus fallax)

Cat Snake (Telescopus fallax)

Four-lined Snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata)

Four-lined Snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata) – note presence of many thicks in neck region

habitat of Four-lined Snake on Skyros

Athene noctua

Falco eleonorae

river valley near Skyros town

temporary inhabitant of the same valley


After already a few hours at the beginning of our trip, we had one full day of herping on the mainland at the end of our trip. We explored some sites in between Athens and Cape Sounio and, although it was rather hot, we found some more species (apart from the two we found on our first evening in Porto Rafti): Snake-eyed Skink, Grass Snake, Balkan Green Lizard, Marginated Tortoise, a Nose-horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes), a killed Dahl’s Whip Snake (Platyceps najadum) of 107cm, several killed and DOR Eastern Montpellier Snakes (Malpolon insignitus), larvae, juveniles and a DOR adult of Green Toad (Bufo viridis), Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis), Greek Marsh Frog (Pelophylax kurtmuelleri), a juvenile Common Tree Frog (Hyla arborea), and two Worm Snakes (Typhlops vermicularis). Ocellated Skink is apparently very common in Attica, as we found several tens in our short time there.

Ocellated Skink (Chalcides ocellatus)

Melanargia larissa(?)

Marginated Tortoise (Testudo marginata)

Nose-horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes)

small wetland with Pelophylax kurtmuelleri, Bufo viridis, Lacerta viridis, Hyla arborea and more

Greek Marsh Frog (Pelophylax kurtmuelleri)

List of the observed species

All species of the combined list of desiderata, compiled for both islands, were seen.

1. Green Toad (Bufo viridis) – mainland
2. Common Tree Frog (Hyla arborea) – mainland
3. yet to be described or assigned Water Frogs (Pelophylax sp.) – Milos and Skyros, at least the Milos one should be different from kurtmuelleri
4. Greek Marsh Frog (Pelophylax kurtmuelleri) - mainland
5. Balkan Terrapin (Mauremys rivulata) – Milos and Skyros
6. Marginated Tortoise (Testudo marginata) – Skyros and mainland
(*. Hermann’s Tortoise (Testudo hermanni) – seemingly retained indivual in Adamas, Milos)
7. Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) – Milos, Skyros and mainland
8. Kotschy’s Gecko (Mediodactylus kotschyi) – Milos and Skyros
9. Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis) - mainland
10. Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata) – Milos (hansschweizeri), Skyros and mainland
11. Milos Wall Lizard (Podarcis milensis) – Milos
12. Skyros Wall Lizard (Podarcis gaigeae) – Skyros
13. Snake-eyed Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii) – Milos and mainland
14. Ocellated Skink (Chalcides ocellatus) - mainland
15. Worm Snake (Typhlops vermicularis) – mainland
16. Leopard Snake (Zamenis situla) - Milos
17. Four-lined Snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata) - Skyros
18. Dahl’s Whip Snake (Platyceps najadum) - mainland; killed
19. Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) – Milos (schweizeri), Skyros (intermediate) and mainland (persa)
20. Cat Snake (Telescopus fallax) – Milos and Skyros
21. Eastern Montpellier Snake (Malpolon insignitus) – mainland; only killed and DOR
22. Nose-horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes) - mainland
23. Milos Viper (Macrovipera schweizeri) - Milos

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