Saharan spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastyx geyri)

Saharan spiny-tailed lizard pair on rock
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Saharan spiny-tailed lizard fact file

Saharan spiny-tailed lizard description

GenusUromastyx (1)

Lizards within the genus Uromastyx are fairly large species with prominent spiny tails (5). Compared to other Uromastyx species, the Saharan spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastyx geyri) is relatively small and slender, with a long tail. The colouration of this species varies from light beige to orange, and it is peppered with a pattern of light dots (2).

The Saharan spiny-tailed lizard is sometimes considered to be a subspecies of Bell’s dab lizard (Uromastyx acanthinurus) (2), a robust, stout-bodied lizard with a blunt nose and thick tail (6).

Also known as
dab lizard, Geyr's dab lizard, Geyr's dabb lizard, Sahara mastigure, Saharan uromastyx.
Length: c. 34 cm (2)

Saharan spiny-tailed lizard biology

Very little information is available on the biology of the Saharan spiny-tailed lizard; however, in general, Uromastyx species are known to be oviparous. The female lays clutches containing between 8 and 20 eggs in burrow systems late in the spring, in the early summer or at the beginning of the dry season (2).

After an incubation period of between eight and ten weeks, the Saharan spiny-tailed lizard eggs hatch. The hatchlings remain within the burrow system for several weeks or months before leaving to create their own burrows (2).

The Saharan spiny-tailed lizard, along with other small Uromastyx species, is thought to reach sexual maturity at two or three years of age. In captivity, wild-caught Saharan spiny-tailed lizards have been known to live for 20 years, and the lifespan estimate for individuals in the wild is 25 years (2).

Adult Saharan spiny-tailed lizards seem to be exclusively herbivorous (2) (7), and feed on a wide range of desert vegetation. However, in captivity young Saharan spiny-tailed lizards are known to eat insects and other invertebrates (2).


Saharan spiny-tailed lizard range

The Saharan spiny-tailed lizard is found in southern Algeria, north-eastern Mali and northern-central Niger. It is found at elevations between 500 and 2,000 metres above sea level (2).


Saharan spiny-tailed lizard habitat

The Saharan spiny-tailed lizard is found on rocky outcrops within semi-desert areas (2).


Saharan spiny-tailed lizard status

The Saharan spiny-tailed lizard has yet to be globally assessed, but it is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Mediterranean Red List (3).

Along with all other species within the genus Uromastyx, the Saharan spiny-tailed lizard is listed on Appendix II of CITES (2) (4).


Saharan spiny-tailed lizard threats

Habitat degradation and over-collection for food, medicine and the international pet trade have been identified as threats to the Saharan spiny-tailed lizard, particularly in the Mediterranean region (2). There has been a recent increase in the level of trade in the Saharan spiny-tailed lizard, which is exported almost exclusively from Mali, and this may lead to a reduction in wild population numbers (8).

Livestock grazing may also affect the Saharan spiny-tailed lizard, as food availability may decrease through direct competition for vegetation (2).


Saharan spiny-tailed lizard conservation

The Saharan spiny-tailed lizard is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which means that a permit is required to internationally export it and that trade in this species should be carefully regulated (4) (8).

There are currently no other known conservation measures in place for the Saharan spiny-tailed lizard (2).

Recommendations for the conservation of the Saharan spiny-tailed lizard include the reduction of its export quota in Mali, as well as carrying out population studies and basic monitoring of the species in its range states (8).


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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.
Having a diet that comprises only vegetable matter.
The act of incubating eggs, that is, keeping them warm so that development is possible.
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
An animal that reproduces by laying eggs, which hatch outside the mother’s body.
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 (December, 2011)
  2. CITES (2006) Review of Significant Trade in Specimens of Appendix II Species: Annex 6d. Twenty-second meeting of the Animals Committee, Lima (Peru). Available at:
  3. Cox, N., Chanson, J. and Stuart, S. (Compilers) (2006) The Status and Distribution of Reptiles and Amphibians of the Mediterranean Basin. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
  4. CITES (December, 2011)
  5. Bartlett, R.D. (2003) Spiny-tailed Agamids (Uromastyx and Xenogama). Barron’s Educational Series, New York, USA.
  6. Bartlett, P.P., Griswold, B. and Bartlett, R.D. (2001) Reptiles, Amphibians, and Invertebrates: An Identification and Care Guide. Barron’s Educational Series, New York, USA.
  7. Pianka, E.R., King, D. and King, R.A. (2004) Varanoid Lizards of the World. Indiana University Press, USA.
  8. Knapp, A. (2004) An Assessment of the International Trade in Spiny-tailed Lizards Uromastyx with a Focus on the Role of the European Union. Technical Report to the European Commission, TRAFFIC Europe. Available at:

Image credit

Saharan spiny-tailed lizard pair on rock  
Saharan spiny-tailed lizard pair on rock

© Joe Blossom /

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