Over the past fifty years, Ibiza1 has had its fair share of invasions of foreigners. In World War II, it was a shelter for artists from Central Europe. In the sixties, writers flocked the subtropical island, followed by the hippies, the disco movement, and the clubbing scene in the eighties and nineties.

Of course I heard everything about the wild nightlife in San Antonio and Ibiza City, but I was only eleven years old and my folks weren't into that sort of holiday activity either. Scuba diving was our game, and although I was officially several years too young, my dad would take my brother and me into the depths of the Mediterranean. Going through my old scuba logbook, I remember these dives vividly: the cave with the gigantic sea anemone at Cabo Nono, diving through the arch at Margalidas, the Roman wreck at Conejera... but I never made a dive at Isla Bleda Plana.

At approximately 6 nautical miles west of Ibiza lies a small group of uninhabited islands called Las Bledas. The main island is a big rock with cliffs that rapidly drop off to 100-200 m depth. I can understand why my dad didn't allow me to strap on scuba gear. Nevertheless, the island was one of my dad's favorite scuba diving spots, and if weather permitted he would explore the waters while the rest of the family remained on The Rock.

Isla Bleda Plana doesn't have many geographic features; it is a barren island, perhaps 100 by 100 m long, and equipped with an automatic lighthouse. My brother and I would climb up the lightning rod up to the top of the lighthouse to enjoy the view. We imagined that we could see the mainland Spain in the distance, although I doubt that would be possible.

The island has little vegetation. There are no trees; only a few plants grow on the rocks, withstanding the forces of the wind, and the salt of the sea. However, the island is home to a unique reptile subspecies, the Podarcis pityusensis maluquerorum; a 20 cm small, black lizard.

Lizards (podarcis), and geckos are quite common on Ibiza; at least they were 20 years ago. But on a small, barren rock like Isla Bleda Plana they are an unexpected sight. They seem to form a tiny ecosystem together with the flies and sparse birds that visit the island. It is truly amazing that these tiny lizards manage to survive on so few resources. And there were many: when we would visit the island, they would crawl out of each crevice to greet the human visitors. The lizards were not in the least bit afraid of humans; apparently they only fear predators from the sky. We would feed them yogurt, fruit, and candy straight from our hands. Sometimes they would climb straight up your leg.

It is difficult to find any information on Podarcis pityusensis maluquerorum. I managed to retrieve the publication from 1921, in which the black lizard is mentioned first2. Apparently, it is named after two brothers, Jose and Joaquim Maluquer; two Spanish herpetologists. It is a subspecies of the Podarcis pityusensis Bosca, the Ibiza Wall Lizard. The only difference is its color; the lizard from Las Bledas is pitch black (although the publication notes that its underside is dark purple. The black lizard can only be found on Las Bledas.

Unfortunately, after 20 years I do not know if the black lizards of Isla Bleda Plana still exist. The green Ibiza Wall Lizard is on the list of Threatened and Endangered Species, but the black lizard lives in such a remote place that it may not be threatened at all. I sincerely hope that these friendly crawlers still dominate The Rock.


1: Ibiza is part of the Balearic Islands, a group that consists of Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera. The island is approximately 300 km east from main land Spain.

Sources:

2: Mertens, Robert, Eine neue Eidechse von den Pityusen, Senckenbergiana, 3 (5):142-144, 1921.
http://www.geocities.com/jeroenspeybroeck/herplist3.html
http://www.grare.org/legal/federal/listings/tess.html

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