Small-fingered psammodromus (Psammodromus microdactylus)

Small-fingered psammodromus on rock
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Small-fingered psammodromus fact file

Small-fingered psammodromus description

GenusPsammodromus (1)

Of the four recognised species within the Psammodromus genus, the small-fingered psammodromus (Psammodromus microdactylus) is the least well known (2). This species belongs to the Lacertidae family, a group of small- to medium-sized lizards sometimes known as the wall or true lizards (3).

Most members of the Lacertidae family have somewhat depressed bodies with long limbs (3), and have large, symmetrically arranged scales on the head (4). The tail of the small-fingered psammodromus is approximately twice the length of its body, although the tail of the female is relatively shorter than that of the male (2).

The dorsal colouration of the small-fingered psammodromus varies depending on the time of year, with both sexes having green backs during the reproductive season. During the breeding season, from the end of March to May, the back of the male is bright emerald green, while outside of the breeding season it becomes a less intense olive green or brown. Green or yellowish-white lateral bands are present during the breeding season, turning brown and bordered by two lighter streaks throughout the rest of the year. The belly of the male small-fingered psammodromus is white (2).

The female small-fingered psammodromus has a paler greenish-brown dorsal band throughout March and April, which fades completely into beige-brown by the end of May (2).

Also known as
Green psammodromus.
Algira microdactyla.
Length: 112 - 148 mm (2)
c. 3 - 4 g (2)

Small-fingered psammodromus biology

Little is known about the biology of the small-fingered psammodromus; however, it is thought to eat invertebrates including spiders, mosquitoes, beetles and possibly even caterpillars (2). Many lacertid species are known to eat seasonally available fruits, which are relatively easily digested, to supplement their insectivorous diet (3).

While most lacertid species tend to shelter under stones, the small-fingered psammodromus prefers to hide under leaf-litter and dig itself just under the surface. This species has been reported to only bask openly for short periods, and it is thought to hibernate and aestivate (2). In general, lacertids tend to rely on speed and object cover to escape from predators (3).

Little information is available on the reproduction of the small-fingered psammodromus, but it is known to be an egg-laying species (1). Lacertids generally lay up to 10 eggs per clutch. Many members of the Lacertidae family have complex social systems, and males usually perform species-specific courtship displays to attract mates (3).


Small-fingered psammodromus range

The small-fingered psammodromus is endemic to Morocco. It is found in isolated populations in the mountains of the Rif, as well as in the middle and high Atlas mountains in the northern and central regions of the country (1) (5).

The small-fingered psammodromus is known to occur up to elevations of 2,250 metres above sea level (1).


Small-fingered psammodromus habitat

The small-fingered psammodromus is a montane species (1), found in relatively humid or semi-humid zones (2).

This species is found in closely cropped, dense grassland or overgrazed pasture, and is often associated with areas of low shrubs, including dwarf palm (Chamaerops humilis), within open country (1) (2).


Small-fingered psammodromus status

The small-fingered psammodromus is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered


Small-fingered psammodromus threats

The absence of suitable habitat as a result of the abandonment of grazing regimes could be a threat to the small-fingered psammodromus (1).


Small-fingered psammodromus conservation

Studies have shown that less than five percent of the small-fingered psammodromus’ habitat is located within protected areas (6), but it is not known whether this species is found within these areas (1).


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To become dormant during the summer or dry season, comparable to hibernation in winter.
Relating to the back or top side of an animal.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
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.
Hibernation is a winter survival strategy in which an animal’s metabolic rate slows down and a state of deep sleep is attained. While hibernating, animals survive on stored reserves of fat that they have accumulated in summer.
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
Of mountains, or growing in mountains.


  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)
  2. In den Bosch, H.A.J. (2005) Psammodromus microdactylus (Boettger, 1881), a rare lizard species? Pod@rcis, 6: 2-35.
  3. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  4. Ananjeva, N.B., Orlov, N.L., Khalikov, R.G., Darevsky, I.S., Ryabov, L.S. and Barabanov, A.V. (2006) An Atlas of the Reptiles of North Eurasia: Taxonomic Diversity, Distribution, Conservation Status. Pensoft Publishers, Bulgaria.
  5. The Reptile Database - Small-fingered psammodromus (November, 2011)
  6. De Pous, P., Beukema, W., Weterings, M., Dümmer, I. and Geniez, P. (2011) Area prioritization and performance evaluation of the conservation area network for the Moroccan herpetofauna: a preliminary assessment. Biodiversity Conservation, 20: 89-118.

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Small-fingered psammodromus on rock  
Small-fingered psammodromus on rock

© Mario Schweiger

Mario Schweiger


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