Rock semaphore gecko (Pristurus rupestris)

Rock semaphore gecko, subspecies iranicus
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Rock semaphore gecko fact file

Rock semaphore gecko description

GenusPristurus (1)

The rock semaphore gecko (Pristurus rupestris) is a tiny gecko which, like other members of the genus Pristurus, is notable for being active during the day rather that at night. Whereas most other geckos are nocturnal and use calls to communicate, Pristurus species signal to each other with body postures and tail movements, earning them the name ‘semaphore geckos’ (3) (4)

The rock semaphore gecko has a relatively flattened, soft-skinned body. Its eyes are quite small compared to most other geckos, and the rounded pupils do not contract to slits in bright light (3) (5). The limbs of the rock semaphore gecko are quite long and slender, and the slender tail is longer than the head and body combined (2). Male rock semaphore geckos have a crest of pointed scales along the top of the tail (2) (3).

The body of the rock semaphore gecko is generally greyish-brown or olive above, with darker and lighter spots, and sometimes with small red spots on the sides. A dark streak passes through the eye, and there may be a light reddish band along the back (2). Three subspecies are sometimes recognised: Pristurus rupestris rupestris, Pristurus rupestris iranicus and Pristurus rupestris guweirensis (6). The rock semaphore gecko closely resembles the bar-tailed semaphore gecko (Pristurus celerrimus), but is smaller, with a shorter and less conspicuously banded tail (3) (4).

Also known as
Blandford’s semaphore gecko, Blanford’s semaphore gecko, dwarf rock gecko, Persia rock gecko.
Total length: c. 8.5 cm (2)
Tail length: c. 5.3 cm (2)

Rock semaphore gecko biology

The rock semaphore gecko hunts during the day, typically lying in wait on a rocky perch to ambush passing prey, usually small invertebrates such as ants (4). Relatively little information is available on the biology of this species, but, like other geckos, it is likely to lay either one or two hard-shelled eggs (1) (5).

A number of different visual signals have been identified in the rock semaphore gecko, including curling or flicking the tail, wagging it from side to side, or passing waves of movement along it. Various different body postures are also used (3) (4). Although the exact meaning of these gestures is unclear (3), they may convey threat, submission, aggression, appeasement, or other social signals (4).


Rock semaphore gecko range

The rock semaphore gecko occurs in southwest Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and possibly in Pakistan. It is also found in Africa, where it has been recorded from Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia and northern Somalia (1) (6). The subspecies P. r. iranicus occurs in Iran and possibly western Pakistan, while P. r. guweirensis occurs in Jordan (6). The rock semaphore gecko may have been accidentally introduced in parts of its range (1).


Rock semaphore gecko habitat

This common gecko is found in rocky areas within sandy desert and gravel plains, as well as open, dry woodland and shrubland (1). The rock semaphore gecko also occurs in cities and can be found in gardens (3). It is typically found on rocks, under stones, or on walls (1) (3) (4), and has been recorded from sea level up to elevations of around 3,000 metres (1).


Rock semaphore gecko status

The rock semaphore gecko is listed as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Rock semaphore gecko threats

The rock semaphore gecko has a wide distribution and a large, stable population, and is not currently considered at risk of extinction (1). Some of the areas in which this species occurs are under pressure from overgrazing, urbanisation, the over-extraction of water resources, and habitat degradation (7) (8), but the rock semaphore gecko is not known to face any major threats at present (1).


Rock semaphore gecko conservation

There are no specific conservation measures currently in place for the rock semaphore gecko. However, this common reptile occurs in a number of protected areas, including the Wadi Rum Reserve in Jordan (1) and the recently designated Wadi Wurayah Mountain Protected Area, in the Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates (7) (8). Wadi Wurayah hosts a rich array of wildlife (7) (8), and has been proposed as a Ramsar site due to its permanent freshwater sources and unique natural and cultural heritage (7).

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.

Find out more

To find out more about the rock semaphore gecko, see:

  • Hellyer, P. and Aspinall, S. (2005) The Emirates: A Natural History. Trident Press Limited, London.

For more information on conservation in the United Arab Emirates, see:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



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.
Active at night.
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.


  1. IUCN Red List (January, 2011)
  2. Boulenger, G.A. (1885) Catalogue of the Lizards in the British Museum (Natural History). Volume I: Geckonidae, Eublepharidae, Uroplatidae, Pygopodidae, Agamidae. British Museum, London.
  3. Hellyer, P. and Aspinall, S. (2005) The Emirates: A Natural History. Trident Press Limited, London.
  4. Feulner, G.R. (2004) Tail signalling in the semaphore gecko Pristurus celerrimus. Tribulus, 14(1): 18-22. Available at:
  5. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. The Reptile Database (January, 2011)
  7. Tourenq, C., Khassim, A., Sawaf, M., Shuriqi, M.K., Smart, E., Ziolkowsi, M., Brook, M., Selwan, R. and Perry, L. (2009) Characterisation of the Wadi Wurayah catchment basin, the first Mountain Protected Area of the United Arab Emirates. International Journal of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, 35(4): 289-311.
  8. WWF - Wadi Wurayah, Fujairah (January, 2011)

Image credit

Rock semaphore gecko, subspecies iranicus  
Rock semaphore gecko, subspecies iranicus

© Omid Mozaffari

Omid Mozaffari


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