Rough-tailed bowfoot gecko (Cyrtopodion scabrum)

Rough-tailed bowfoot gecko on the ground
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Rough-tailed bowfoot gecko fact file

Rough-tailed bowfoot gecko description

GenusCyrtopodion (1)

Belonging to one of the most diverse families of lizards, the rough-tailed bowfoot gecko is a small, nocturnal ground gecko, with exceptionally long, angular toes and two pairs of enlarged scales under the chin (4) (5). It is sandy in colour and whiter underneath, marked with regular brown spots on the body, and brown bands on the tail (6). The head is flattened downwards, and the eyes are large, lacking eyelids, with vertical pupils that can be contracted during the day to prevent light from damaging the retina. The tail is longer than the head and body and is relatively flat and tapered, with rows of prominent keeled scales. The rough-tailed bowfoot gecko also has a series of ridged, wart-like bumps, called tubercles, which are arranged regularly along the length of the back, and are separated by small scales, while the underside has around twenty large scales across the middle of the belly (2) (5) (6).

Also known as
keeled rock gecko, rough-tailed gecko.
Cyrtodactylus basoglui, Cyrtodactylus scaber, Cyrtopodion scaber, Gymnodactylus scaber, Stenodactylus scaber, Tenuidactylus scaber.
Length: 7.5 – 11.7 cm (2)

Rough-tailed bowfoot gecko biology

The rough-tailed bowfoot gecko is active during the night, hunting for small insects such as ants, termites, beetles, moths, and grasshoppers. It often forages in artificially lit areas, often associated with human habitation, where it picks off insects that are attracted to the light (4) (5). On capturing prey, the rough-tailed bowfoot gecko thrashes it around in order to break the exoskeleton, before crushing it between its jaws and eating it whole (4). It is a remarkable climber, and like many other gecko species, it is capable of climbing up walls and ceilings using specialised toe pads. The underside of each toe is covered in small scales called scansors, which have up to 150,000 microscopic, highly branched and hair-like structures known as setae. The setae form hundreds of saucer-shaped end plates, which give the gecko an enormous surface area in relation to its body size, enabling it to grip all kinds of surfaces (5).

Breeding occurs from March to August. During the mating ritual, the male gecko emits low coughing sounds and makes side-to-side tail movements, before lunging forward and biting the side of the females’ neck. The pairing lasts several minutes, and following mating, the female retreats to a secluded place to lay a clutch of one or two rounded, hard-shelled eggs. Juvenile rough-tailed bowfoot geckos hatch within 30 to 40 days. During a breeding season, a female rough-tailed bowfoot gecko may lay up to three separate clutches (4).


Rough-tailed bowfoot gecko range

The rough-tailed bowfoot gecko is distributed throughout southwest Asia, including south east Turkey, Iraq, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. This species has also become naturalised in Israel, and has been introduced and become established in Texas, USA (7).


Rough-tailed bowfoot gecko habitat

In its native range, the rough-tailed gecko is primarily found in disturbed habitats such as towns, oil camps and desert farms, while in Texas it is known only from the Port of Galveston, where it is found along the commercial fishing docks (2) (5).


Rough-tailed bowfoot gecko status

This species has been provisionally assessed as Least Concern (LC) using the IUCN Red List criteria (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Rough-tailed bowfoot gecko threats

While there currently appear to be no major threats to this species, it is relatively understudied, and a full assessment of potential threats has yet to be carried out.


Rough-tailed bowfoot gecko conservation

There are currently no known specific conservation actions targeted at this species.

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.

Find out more

To find out more about other reptiles in the range of the rough-tailed bowfoot gecko, see:



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A very diverse phylum (a major grouping of animals) that includes crustaceans, insects and arachnids. All arthropods have paired jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton (exoskeleton).
An external skeleton that supports and protects an animal’s body.
Raised ridges or creases on the scales of reptiles, often along the middle.
Term used to describe a species that was originally introduced from another country, but becomes established, maintains itself and invades native populations.
Active at night.


  1. ITIS (September, 2010)
  2. Gecko Web (September, 2010)
  3. Cox, N., Chanson, J. and Stuart, S. (2006) The Status and Distribution of Reptiles and Amphibians of the Mediterranean Basin. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
  4. Sharif Khan, M. (2008) Review of the morphology, ecology, and distribution of geckos of the genus Cyrtopodion, with a note on generic placement of Cyrtopodion brachykolon Krysko et. al., 2007. Caspian Journal of Environmental Science, 6(1): 79-86.
  5. Gardner, D. (2005) Terrestrial reptiles. In: Hellyer, P. and Aspinall, S. (Eds). The Emirates: A Natural History. Trident Press Limited, London.
  6. Khalaf, K.T. (1959) Reptiles of Iraq: With Some Notes on Amphibians. Ar-Rabitta Press, Iraq.
  7. Lever, C. (2003) Naturalised Reptiles and Amphibians of the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 

Image credit

Rough-tailed bowfoot gecko on the ground  
Rough-tailed bowfoot gecko on the ground

© Omid Mozaffari

Omid Mozaffari


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