FAUNA - REPTILES & INSECTS
The Iberian Skink (Chalcides bedriagai) ….. The Great Unknown in the Dunes
This very interesting little reptile is one of the least known species that lives in our dunes. Today we want to bring you a little closer to it.
It is a uniquely Iberian reptile and can be found all over Spain. It is not on the endangered list (according to IUCN – International Union for the Conservation of Nature) but it is categorised as of “special interest” according to different national and local catalogues because of its ecological contribution and uniqueness.
It is small, only about 10-12 cm long. The body is cylindrical and short, ending in a little tail that is not very different from the body. Its entire body is covered in smooth, shiny, hexagonal scales. The legs have 5 digits (a characteristic that differentiates it from the Chalcides tridactylus which has only 3) and are extremely short. When we see a skink its unique scales and tiny legs make us think of snakes instead of lizards. And evolutionarily speaking they come between the two. The way they move is proof of this – at high speed with undulating movements when it is in danger but while it is calm, it uses its limbs.
The head is small and triangular with an orange chin, small dark eyes and very incredible ears. As for its colour and shape, this varies according to the population. It usually varies between shades of dark grey, green and brown with some yellowish spots.
It is very lethargic, somewhat more active in the morning and at sunset. Reptiles often sunbathe to regulate their body temperatures, but the skink gets its heat from the ground and the rocks it hides in (tigmothermia instead of heliotermia). For this reason, it frequents loose or sandy soils where it can bury itself. So much so that, among other habitats, it can be found in the Marbella Dunes Ecological Reserve as well as in the “Artola Dunas” Natural Monument in Cabopino.
However, they are very susceptible to the destruction of their habitat, and as soon as this is damaged by human activity, the populations are notably reduced. This is why conserving the Marbella Dunes is the best way to protect our great little treasure.
Natural predators of the Processionary caterpillar (Thaumetopoea pityocampa)
The well-known “Pine Processionary” (Thaumetopoea pityocampa) is one of the greatest threats to the pine trees (Pinus pinea) on our dunes. This insect not only affects trees. Its stinging hairs contain a toxin which makes it very dangerous for pets and people alike, causing irritation and even suffocation in animals that ingest it. Coming into contact with these protective hairs can be dangerous.
However, some animals have managed to overcome this and have become their predators. They are, therefore, our best allies in controlling these pests biologically – the safest and most responsible method.
There are two phases in the development of this moth when they are most vulnerable: as a caterpillar and as a buried pupa. On reaching the caterpillar stage, birds such as the Great Tit (Parus major) feed on them. Even when the caterpillars have burrowed into the ground, blackbirds (Turdus merula) can detect them and dig them out and eat them. The hoopoe (Upupa epops), one of the showiest birds on our dunes, are expert caterpillar hunters who can even remove the stinging hairs before eating them. Other species of birds, not indigenous to our the dunes, such as the Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), the Crows (Corvus corax) and the Blue Tit (Cyanites caeruleus) also feed on this insect at different stages in its development, including at the egg stage.
Insects such as ants, wasps and cicadas are other predators of the Processionary at both caterpillar and egg phases. Even in summer, bats feed on the moth. Some fungi such as the “processionary fungus” (Cordyceps militaris), common in coniferous forests, colonise the caterpillar. When these, covered with spores of the cordyceps, bury themselves in the earth, the fungus germinates and feeds on the organic components of the chrysalis and kills the moth developing inside.
Nature has many ways that help us deal with this pest. We can cooperate in simple ways, for example, by installing nesting boxes that offer refuge to birds that feed on the caterpillar. In this way, we avoid the use of more harmful measures and all along the coast, keep our pines, one of the icons of the Mediterranean vegetation, healthy.
January 2020 – COMMON CHAMELEON . . .is strolling in the Natural Monument “Dunes of Artola”, Cabopino
IT IS A SHEER DELIGHT to observe the leisurely stroll of this Common Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon). It is obvious that it is very much at home its habitat in the Natural Monument “Dunas de Artola” in Cabopino.
The population that we have introduced over the past 2 years, with the approval of the Junta de Andalucía, is evolving nicely and we are waiting for February-March to release another six. At the moment these are still in the CREA installations in the Montes de Málaga. They are being ideally cared for there in preparation for resuming their natural life cycle in Marbella.
This video is unique and was taken by a member of ProDunas. We hope you like it . . .
December 2019 – NEXT SPRING WILL BRING A WONDERFUL GIFT TO THE ARTOLA DUNES.
We are looking forward to the arrival of spring because this year something very special will happen. 6 Common Chameleons (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) will be released in the dunes. These are 3 pairs that have been bred in captivity from eggs collected by members of the Málaga Conservation and Recovery Centre of the Common Chameleon.
As you can see in the photos, they are barely eating and are in a state of semi-lethargy. This is because they are reptiles and are hibernating right now. When spring comes, these young chameleons will be returned to their original habitat in the Natural Monument “Dunas de Artola”.
We remind you that the Common Chameleon is the only European tree species – it can only live in trees-. That is why, in order to ensure its survival, it is essential to conserve the tree and bush cover in Artola.
We will welcome them to Artola and hope they have a long life. We hope they will keep this project going by laying a new batch of eggs. That will guarantee an increase in the local Chameleon population.
JANUARY 2019 – THIS TIME THE PRIZE WENT TO THE CAT
with a big smile on his face, a cat brought its owner this chamaeleon! Luckily, the injuries were not too serious, so we were able to let him go free in his new habitat in the “Dunas de Artola” Natural Monument.
With a great show of energy she immediately took to the place. As you can imagine, this was really heartening. Good luck, little chamaeleon!
NOVEMBER 2018 – COMMON CHAMAELEON WITH ITS TAIL BROKEN
This Common Chameleon was twice damaged and therefore will receive twice the attention until its release.
Its tail was broken when it was run over. But it has survived to fulfil its raison d’être: lay a good number of eggs. The Common Chameleon Endangered Species Collection Centre will help all the eggs hatch when their time comes.
It will be a beautiful event and we will give it every attention and care so that many beautiful little Common Chameleons can be released into the “Dunas de Artola” Natural Monument area.
It will be a long wait as the eggs take almost a year to hatch and for the hatchlings to see the light of day.
We know how to be patient . . .
OCTOBER 2018 – BACK HOME WITH A HAPPY ENDING
for this common Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) – it had been run over but was saved and looked after for 11 weeks at the Centro del Camaleón (CREA) in Málaga. It received dedicated intensive care and was fed daily.
It recovered slowly from its wounds and we now have released it into its habitat in the dunes of Artola.
We hope it likes its new home and we wish it luck.
To Joaquín, who looked after it so well in the Centre, we offer our sincere thanks for the care and attention he lavished on this patient.
SEPTEMBER 2018 – WE WOULD LIKE TO INTRODUCE A BEAUTIFUL SNAKE TO YOU.
It lives in the dune ecosystems – this snake is not poisonous, although it looks scary!
We have to get used to the fact that the animal kingdom does not distinguish between its own habitat and ours and when it needs to bathe it comes into our zone, even a house, without a backward thought.
We have taken over its environment.
The group of colubrids (Colubridae) includes about one thousand eight hundred species. Future research has to be carried out to provide more clarity so as to better understand a group as large as this.
We call every ophidian which is not a threat to man and is not even very big,
a SNAKE. To stimulate curiosity and get study going about this fascinating reptile world, we bet you that: all snakes are serpents, but not all serpents are snakes . . .?
JULY 2018 – IT WAS LOST, WANDERING ALONG THE ROAD
AND WE WERE ABLE TO SAVE IT – thanks to some of our citizens getting in touch with us.
As it was in perfect condition, we were able to set this beautiful young Common Chameleon free in its natural habitat in Artola. We only had it with us for a few hours but we got to known it is able to confirm that it will know how to find its place, be able to look after itself and protect itself from whatever life
has in store for it.
We wish it all the very best as it stays, comes to adulthood and leaves its mark on the “Dunas de Artola” Natural Monument..
BABY BOOM IN ARTOLA
Thanks to members of the public working together, we can confirm that the baby chameleons in their habitat in the Natural Monument “Dunas de Artola” are in excellent health.
The families are getting bigger and soon there will be a good sized population of common chameleons on site.
IBERIAN WORM LIZARD (Blanus cinereus)
We received some photos in the post from a friend who wondered if it was an earthworm because it has eyes and a mouth.
The Blind Worm is a reptile adapted to underground life and specialised in digging tunnels. Its cylindrical body is covered with quadrangular scales that are aligned in the form of rings.
Although it has no limbs, its closest relatives are Iberian skinks and lizards.
It has a small head and a rounded snout. Its sight is vestigial (a very important fact), while its sense of smell and hearing are developed.
The Blind Worms reproduce in spring between March and June and lay a single setting of 1-2 eggs about 34mm in length and 6mm in width, so we can say that the specimen found is still young. It is found exclusively in the Iberian southeast and it likes all forms of oak and Mediterranean pine forests.
13TH JULY 2017
A FURTHER RELEASE OF 5 COMMON CHAMELEONS (Chamaeleo chamaeleon)
These specimens had been taken care of at the Chameleon Recovery Centre and handed over to our Association by Environmental Sustainability for the area of the City of Málaga.
This release was handled jointly with the Regional Ministry of the Environment and Territorial Planning and the Malaga Provincial Council and once again it took place in the Natural Monument “Dunas de Artola”, in Cabopino, which is now the “habitat of the Common Chameleon”.
PRODUNAS SPONSORS 5 CHAMELEONS
5 Common Chameleons (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) have been released by the Pro Dunas Association into the Artola Natural Monument area. The re-establishment of this species is a great challenge for us. The reptiles come from the CREA program of the Andalusian Regional Government.
- Each Chamaeleon has been micro-chipped to help with their survival.
The breeding season is from July to September when, after 2 months gestation, the eggs are laid on sandy soil. 10 months later they hatch and a new chameleon
Pro Dunas requests that no-one touches any of the chameleons or removes them from their dune habitat.
Any sighting of a chameleon should be reported to the Pro Dunas Association.
IBERIAN SKINK (Chalcides bedriagal)
This small reptile is about 15 cm long and is unique to the Iberian Peninsula. The Bedriaga Skink differs from other Skinks in that it has 5 fingers on each of its 4 legs.
The body is smooth and shiny and is brownish-grey in colour with a small, triangular head and a rounded snout. The tail makes up approximately half the length of the animal. The skink looks like a mix of lizard and snake.
It is very shy. It moves with rapid undulating movements. It hides in the sandy environments covered in dune vegetation in the Ecological Reserve of the Marbella dune coastline area.
It feeds on various invertebrates. It is very pacific and is not poisonous¡
Do you want to receive our Newsletter?
Do you want to become a member or be our friend of the dunes?
Asociación ProDunas Marbella
The Association works tirelessly for the defence and preservation of the unique ecosystems that survive in the natural sand dune environments in the Province of Málaga; promotes the protection of native flora and small wildlife; promotes recovery, rehabilitation and conservation of interesting biodiversity of sand dunes areas in the municipality of Marbella.