First added 19 June 2001. Last updated 8 August 2002: added common names for A. cantoris and A. micropholis species.

Acanthodactylus: Fringe-Fingered Lizards



The Acanthodactylus, or Fringe-Toed/Fingered Lizards, are one of the larger lacertid genera. They enjoy a wide distribution from the Iberian peninsula to West Africa eastwards to the Middle East and India. All are primarily inhabitants of arid areas and have a very similar shape and size to one another, usually being about 8" (20cm) from snout to tail end.

Considering the size of this genus, there is surprisingly little commonly available in print about the species, although this may partly be attributed to the inaccessibility of much of the harsh terrain in which they live. Research may yet reveal that A. pardalis and A. scutellatus are in fact more than one species: already some of their subspecies have been raised to full species level.

Owing to the large size of this genus, we have broken it up into geographical areas, as well as giving an alphabetical index of species.

Europe/NW Africa NW & W Africa North Africa/Middle East
Middle East/Arabia West Africa Middle East & W Asia
A. arabicus A. aureus, Golden Fringe-Toed Lizard A. bedriagai
A. beershebensis A. blanci, Blanc's Fringe-Toed Lizard A. blanfordii
A. boskianus, Bosc's Fringe-Toed Lizard A. boueti A. busacki, Busack's Leopard Fringe-Toed Lizard
A. cantoris, Fringe-Toed Sand Lizard A. dumerilii, Small Fringe-Toed Lizard A. erythrurus, (Common) Fringe-Fingered Lizard
A. felicis A. gongrorhyncatus A. grandis
A. haasi A. lineomaculatus,Coastal Common Fringe-Toed Lizard A. longipes, Long-Footed Fringe-Toed Lizard
A. maculatus, Spotted Leopard Fringe-toed Lizard A. masirae A. microphilus, Yellow-Tailed Sand Lizard
A. nilsoni A. opheodurus A. orientalis
A. pardalis, Leopard Fringe-Toed Lizard A. robustus A. savignyi, Savigny's Fringe-toed Lizard
A. schmidti, Fringe-Toed Sand Lizard A. schreiberi A. scutellatus, Nidua Lizard
A. spinicaudi A. taghitensis A. tilburyi
A. tristrami A. yemenicus

Scientific Name Common Name Distribution Size Notes
European/NW African
Acanthodactylus erythrurus (Common) Fringe-Fingered Lizard Iberia: N. Africa, W. Asia 8-8" The only member of this genus found in Europe: other members of the genus also live in arid areas. A. erythrurus lives on sandy ground and can tolerate hot conditions, being able to run over sand with a surface temperature of 50 deg. The common name derives from the fine fringes on its fingers which help prevent it from sinking in fine sand. Occupies or digs burrows in sand dunes, or shelters beneath stones. It is very timid. Females up to 3 years lay 4-6 eggs in hot sand in May-June: older females lay an additional clutch in July-August. Young hatch after 70-75 days and are 6cm long and brightly-coloured. There are at least two other subspecies apart from the nominate, A. e. atlantica (Morocco only) and A. e. belli. A fairly scientific discussion of the reproduction of A. erythrurus in its northern boundary can be downloaded from the Russian Journal of Herpetology. also have good pictures of an adult and a juvenile from the same location.
NW & W Africa
A. aureus Western Sahara/Golden Fringe-Toed Lizard Atlantic coastal regions of SW Morocca, Mauritania, Senegal & poss. W Sahara 8?" Variously considered a subspecies of A. inornatus or A. scutellatus until 1982.
A. bedriagai ? Fringe-Toed Lizard Algeria (tablelands) See EMBL database entry for further details.
A. blanci Blanc's Fringe-Toed Lizard Coastal regions of N & E Tunisia & Algeria  
A. busacki Busack's Leopard Fringe-Toed Lizard W & C Morocco Endemic to Morocco.
A. dumerilii Small Fringe-Toed Lizard Morocco (W Sahara), Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Algeria Apart from the nominate, one other subspecies, A. d. exiguus. Click here for an interesting report by the Colorado Herp Society on the mode of feeding of A. dumerilii in the wild on silver ants. The Swiss also have a good picture.
A. lineomaculatus Coastal Common Fringe-Toed Lizard S & W Morocco Once considered a subspecies of A. erythrurus until 1995.
A. longipes Long-Footed Fringe-Toed Lizard Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad  
A. maculatus Spotted Leopard Fringe-toed Lizard NE Morocco, N Algeria, Tunisia, NW Libya Considered a subspecies of A. pardalis until 1982.
A. savignyi Savigny's Fringe-toed Lizard N Algeria (coastal regions): Morocco?  
A. spinicauda Spiny-Tailed Fringe-Toed Lizard NW Algeria Formerly subspecies of A. pardalis. Restricted range at base of Atlas Mountains.
A. taghitensis   Algeria Species first described in 1995. See EMBL database entry. Click here for the abstract of the report by Geniez & Foucart.
North Africa/Middle East
A. boskianus Bosc's Fringe-Toed Lizard Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt (Nile-delta and parts of the Sinai-Peninsula), Western Sahara ?, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, N Nigeria, Sudan, Ethiopia (Abyssinia), Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Israel, Syria, Iraq (Euphrat region), S Turkey 8-10" Very widely distributed Acanthodactylus species and in North Africa at least very common across its range. It is found in natural areas such as open sand or clay ground, steppes with high or low plants or bushes, grassy sandy banks, sand dunes and oases, but also near rubbish dumps. KKS note however that it seems to avoid stony ground. It may be found from sea level to up to 2,400m. A. boskianus digs burrows with one or more entrances in solidified sand. Despite this wide range there are only three subspecies, the nominate and A. b. asper and A. b. euphraticus. Depending on the location, the lizards may hibernate or remain active during the winter. If running, the lizard will hold its tail elevated in a semicircle [KKS]. Social behaviour is quite complex, with a hierarchy and series of signals: KKS note that captive males will fight to establish this hierarchy, but also that inferiors may indicate inferiority with a wave of the tail, which settles the dispute. This may imply that more than one male may be kept in a suitably sized vivarium and that they establish hierarchy among themselves in the same way as, say, male bearded dragons. Diet is catholic (the lizards apparently willing to tackle anything they can overpower) but consists mainly of insects such as hymenopterans (especially ants), bugs and beetles. Predators on A. boskianus include Varanus griseus, Chamaelo chamaeleon, various snakes and the crow species Corvus ruficollis. Click here or here for a photo. Scalation details (as given in KKS): 4 (usually) supraoculars, of which 1st may be divided: triangle of granules between 3rd and 4th: 1-2 (usually 1) rows of granules between supraoculars and supraciliaries. Nasal region raised. Loreal region concave. 4-5 supralabials in front of subocular. Subocular sharply keeled, may or may not contact upper lip. 2 sharply keeled supratemporals, 1st much larger. Temporal scales increase in size downwards. Front of ear opening denticulated by 4-5 scales. 5 pairs of submaxillaries, of which 1st-3rd in contact. Dorsal scales: large, keeled and imbricate, 32-40 transverse rows at midbody, increasing in size towards tail. Throat: numerous small scales in temple region. Collar: large and indented. Gular fold conspicuous. Ventral scales: broader rather than high, 10 (sometimes 12-14) longitudinal rows: innermost trapezoidal, outermost squarish. Other: upper scales on the tail similar to dorsals. Fingers with three series of scales, 19-26 femoral pores beneath each thigh. Coloration: ground colour variable, may be dark- or silver grey, yellow- or red-brown. Basic dorsal pattern is of 7 longitudinal stripes of varying contrast or faintness. Reproduction: females lay clutches of (usually) 3-5 eggs, often in communal nesting sites: no other details as yet available.
A. b. boskianus Nominate subspecies.
A. b. asper KKS cast doubt on the validity on this subspecies, as the characteristic on which it is based (subocular touching or not touching the upper lip) occurs throughout the range.
A. b. euphraticus   No data yet available.
A. pardalis Leopard Fringe-Toed Lizard NW Libya, N Egypt, Israel, Jordan    
A. scutellatus Nidua Lizard SE Algeria, S Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Israel, Mali, Niger, N Chad, N Sudan, Iraq, N Saudi Arabia, Kuwait    
Middle East/Arabia
A. arabicus ? Fringe-Toed Lizard S Yemen 8"  
A. beershebensis Israel Restricted range: see EMBL database entry for further details.
A. felicis S Yemen, Oman  
A. gongrorhynchatus E Saudi Arabia, W United Arab Emirates  
A. grandis E Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, N Saudi Arabia, W Iran  
A. haasi NE Saudi Arabia, C Oman  
A. masirae Oman First described in 1980.
A. opheodurus Arabian Peninsula: northwards to Israel, Jordan, Iraq  
A. orientalis E Syria, W & C Iraq  
A. robustus Jordan, Syria, SW Iraq, N Saudi Arabia
A. schmidti
Fringe-Toed Sand Lizard Arabian Peninsula, in the north to Jordan, SE Iraq, SW Iran, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait Raised from subspecies of A. contoris in 1982. As might be expected, A. schmidti is an inhabitant of sandy plains, dunes and the sabkhas. It is identifiable by a row of white oval spots on its sides. The picture on the UAE website unfortunately appears to be of a different species.
A. schreiberi ? Fringe-Toed Lizard Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel, Turkey Two subspecies, A. s. schreiberi and A. s. syriacus. The Cypriot species often hunts on the beaches (up to 100m from the sea) during daylight hours. The population along the southern coast is endangered at present. There is a small photograph of a Cypriot specimen here.
A. tilburyi Saudi Arabia (Riyadh region) First described in 1986: see EMBL database entry for details.
A. tristrami Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan  
A. yemenicus Yemen First described in 1982.
W Africa
A. boueti ? Fringe-Toed Lizard N Ghana, N Benin, W Nigeria 8?"  
A. guineensis Ghana, Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Mali Considered an Eremias species until 1982.
Middle East & W Asia
A. blanfordii ? Fringe-Toed Lizard SE Iran, S Afghanistan, SW Pakistan and N Oman (Muscat region), India 8?"  
A. cantoris Fringe-Toed Sand Lizard E Afghanistan, Pakistan, NW India, Jordan  
A. c. cantoris Indian Fringe-Toed Sand Lizard  
A. c. blanfordii Mekran Fringe-Toed Sand Lizard  
A. micropholis Yellow-Tailed Sand Lizard SE Iran, S Pakistan First described in 1980.
A. nilsoni   Kermanshah Province (W Iran)  

For bibliography please refer to main Lacertidae page.

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