Leopard fringe-fingered lizard (Acanthodactylus pardalis)

Leopard fringe-fingered lizard
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Leopard fringe-fingered lizard fact file

Leopard fringe-fingered lizard description

GenusAcanthodactylus (1)

Named after the distinctive spotted pattern on its back, the leopard fringe-fingered lizard (Acanthodactylus pardalis) is the least common Acanthodactylus species in Egypt (2) (3). Like all species in its genus, the leopard fringe-fingered lizard has ‘fringes’ of scales along the sides of its toes which aid in movement over sandy surfaces (2) (3).

The leopard fringe-fingered lizard has small, smooth scales on its back which are sandy coloured, with black and light blotches. It has 14 rows of scales on its stomach (3)

Male and female leopard fringe-fingered lizards differ in appearance. The male has an irregular pattern, with larger femoral pores than the female to mark its territory or attract females. The male also has a broader tail base than the female, and often one less vertebra, as well as a bright yellow infusion on its throat during the breeding season (3). The female leopard fringe-fingered lizard has two light bands on its back (2).

The juvenile leopard fringe-fingered lizard has dark and light stripes on its back which are more pronounced than on the adult, and often has a blue tail. As the leopard fringe-fingered lizard matures, the pattern fades and becomes duller (3).

Average male body length: 5.6 cm (2)
Maximum female body length: 7.4 cm (2)
Average male weight: 7.4 g (2)
Average female weight: 5 g (2)

Leopard fringe-fingered lizard biology

The leopard fringe-fingered lizard is diurnal; during the hottest months of the year it is active just after dawn and before dusk when the temperatures are lower. The leopard fringe-fingered lizard is less active during the winter months (3). A terrestrial species, the leopard fringe-fingered lizard uses burrows as a refuge from high or low temperatures, as well as to escape predators such as snakes (1) (2) (6).

The leopard fringe-fingered lizard is an opportunistic feeder, preying on a variety of invertebrates, including spiders, mites, snails and insects. The diet of the leopard fringe-fingered lizard varies according to location and season (2).

The reproductive period is between March and July (2). The female may lay two or three clutches per year, consisting of between three and seven eggs (1). The number of eggs produced is correlated to body size, with larger females producing more eggs (2).


Leopard fringe-fingered lizard range

The leopard fringe-fingered lizard is endemic to the lowland Mediterranean regions of northern Egypt and northeast Libya (1). This species is restricted to fragments of suitable habitat and therefore has a relatively limited range (1) (4).


Leopard fringe-fingered lizard habitat

The leopard fringe-fingered lizard is found close to the coast in semi-arid steppe areas with hard clay soils (1). The flat and open habitat of the leopard fringe-fingered lizard is moderately covered by vegetation and is often scattered with stones (2) (3).


Leopard fringe-fingered lizard status

The leopard fringe-fingered lizard is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Leopard fringe-fingered lizard threats

One of Egypt’s most threatened reptiles, the leopard fringe-fingered lizard has declined by up to 80 percent in Egypt since the 1970s (1) (3).                                                                                                                            

Habitat loss and collection for the international pet trade are the main threats to the leopard fringe-fingered lizard’s survival (1) (3). Additional threats to this species include coastal tourism development, overgrazing by livestock, increased agricultural practices, quarrying, and the use of off-road vehicles (1).


Leopard fringe-fingered lizard conservation

The leopard fringe-fingered lizard may be present within the El Omayed protected area of Egypt, but this has not been confirmed. In order to protect this vulnerable species, national and potentially international legislation is needed to conserve areas of suitable habitat for the leopard fringe-fingered lizard (1).


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Active during the day.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Femoral pores
Pores found on the inside of the thighs in certain lizards, which excrete and produce a waxy substance. As the lizard crawls along the ground, the femoral pores drag along the surface, leaving a scent trail.
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
A vast grassland plain, characterised by few trees and low rainfall.
An area occupied and defended by an animal, a pair of animals or a group.


  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2011)
  2. Schleich, H.H., Kästle, W. and Kabisch, K. (1996) Amphibians and Reptiles of North Africa: Biology, Systematics, Field Guide. Koeltz Scientific Publishers, Germany.
  3. El Din, S. B. (2006) A Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Egypt. American University in Cairo Press, Cairo.
  4. Fonseca, M.M., Brito, J.C., Paulo, O.S., Carretero, M.A. and Harris, D.J. (2009) Systematic and phylogeographical assessment of the Acanthodactylus erythrurus group (Reptilia: Lacertidae) based on phylogenetic analyses of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 51(2): 131-142.
  5. Hall, M.I. (2008) Comparative analysis of the size and shape of the lizard eye. Zoology, 111: 62-75.
  6. Zaady, E. and Bouskila, A. (2002) Lizard burrows association with successional stages of biological soil crusts in an arid sandy region. Journal of Arid Environments, 50: 235-246.

Image credit

Leopard fringe-fingered lizard  
Leopard fringe-fingered lizard

© Aurélien Audevard

Aurélien Audevard


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