Saudi fringe-fingered lizard (Acanthodactylus gongrorhynchatus)

Saudi fringe-fingered lizard on sand
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Saudi fringe-fingered lizard fact file

Saudi fringe-fingered lizard description

GenusAcanthodactylus (1)

The Saudi fringe-fingered lizard (Acanthodactylus gongorhynchatus) has remarkable ‘fringes’ of elongated scales on each toe, and a long, fragile tail, enabling the lizard to move easily across the loose, shifting surface of sandy deserts. A small to medium sized reptile, the Saudi fringe-fingered lizard has a long, cylindrical body, with well-defined rows of smooth, rectangular scales on the belly (2) (4) (5). It is usually fairly pale in colour, with a bold, brown stripe running along the body. As a juvenile, the Saudi fringe-fingered lizard has a blue tail, which changes to blue-white with age (2) (3).

Acanthodactylus fraseri.

Saudi fringe-fingered lizard biology

There is very little information available on the biology of the Saudi fringe-fingered lizard; however, it is thought that the sand-dwelling species of the Acanthodactylus genus may rely heavily on ants as prey (3). A study on the evolution of lizard toe fringes has found that, contrary to most other ‘fringed’ reptile species, the fringes of the Saudi fringe-fingered lizard are different shapes on either side of the toe, with ‘triangular’ shaped scales on one side, and ‘projecting’ scales on the other (9).  


Saudi fringe-fingered lizard range

The Saudi fringe-fingered lizard is known from eastern Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (2) (6) (7).


Saudi fringe-fingered lizard habitat

Occurring in arid regions, the Saudi fringe-fingered lizard is primarily a sand-dwelling species (2) (3). It has also been reported from the sabkhas (salt flats) of the UAE, where it may occasionally forage (8).


Saudi fringe-fingered lizard status

The Saudi fringe-fingered lizard is classified as Data Deficient (DD) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Data Deficient


Saudi fringe-fingered lizard threats

Relatively little is currently known about the distribution and status of the Saudi fringe-fingered lizard. However, in parts of the United Arab Emirates it is believed to be under threat from real estate development (1).


Saudi fringe-fingered lizard conservation

There are no known specific conservation measures currently in place for the Saudi fringe-fingered lizard, but it occurs in a number of protected areas in the United Arab Emirates (1).

Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi is a principal sponsor of ARKive. EAD is working to protect and conserve the environment as well as promoting sustainable development in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

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  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2013)
  2. Hellyer, P. and Aspinall, S. (2005) The Emirates: A Natural History. Trident Press Limited, United Arab Emirates.
  3. Fuelner, G. (2001) Fringe-toed Lizards. Gazelle Newsletter November 2001. Emirates Natural History Group, Dubai. Available at:
  4. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Barth, H. J. and Böer, B. (2002) Sabkha Ecosystems Volume I: The Arabian Peninsula and Adjacent Countries. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, Netherlands.
  6. Alsharhan, A. et al. (2008) Terrestrial Environment of Abu Dhabi Emirate. Environment Agency, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
  7. The Reptile Database (October, 2010)
  8. Pianka, E.R. and Vitt, L.J. (2003) Lizards: Windows to the Evolution of Diversity. University of California Press, Berkeley.
  9. Luke, C. (1986) Convergent evolution of lizard toe fringes. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 27: 1-6.

Image credit

Saudi fringe-fingered lizard on sand  
Saudi fringe-fingered lizard on sand

© Drew Gardner

Dr Drew Gardner


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