Added 4 June 2006 as a separate page.

Lizards of Europe: Eremias, Racerunners

The genus Eremias is predominantly central- and northern Asian in distribution, inhabiting desert or arid steppe areas, with one species entering Eastern Europe and three others being found in Russia and the Transcaucasia region. These are small lizards, often grey in colour, that can move quickly across the terrain. They are closely related (and similar in appearance) to the Acanthodactylus genus, including the possession of "fringes" on their toes to assist in moving across sand.

Eremias lizards are surprisingly short-lived in nature. A study of Eremias velox found that the lizards reached sexual maturity at one year and had an average life expectancy of just two and a half years. Nor are they particularly productive, laying on average two to four clutches of two to six eggs per year. On the other hand, the remoteness and low overall animal densities of their habitats may compensate for this.

For a fuller listing and description of the genus Eremias, click here.

Eremias arguta, Racerunner / Desert Lacertid Eremias pleskei, Transcaucasian Racerunner Eremias strauchi, Strauch's Racerunner 
Eremias velox, Rapid Racerunner    

Scientific Name Common Name Distribution Size Notes
Eremias arguta Racerunner / Desert Lacertid Danube delta, Caucasus; Mongolia, C. Asia 12?"




The Racerunner is rare in Europe but widely distributed from Romania to Mongolia. Unusually for lacertids, it has a pointed snout and the tail suddenly narrows after about a third of its length. It only lives on sandy ground, usually (in Europe) sandy areas on coasts or banks or even in marshes. Preferred shelters are beneath stones or a burrow dug about half a metre long under clumps of tall grass. It also uses the burrow to hibernate from Sept-Oct onwards, depending on the weather, and emerges in March-April. Mating occurs in April and females lay 3-11 eggs. Incubation time is about two months: the young measure 6cm on hatching. Diet is various arthropods, inc. beetles, and small snails. There are five subspecies, of which only those touching European territory (including Transcaucasia) are listed here.
E. a. arguta  
E. a. deserti Rumania to Azerbaijan
E. a. transcaucasica Transcaucasia
E. pleskei Transcaucasian Racerunner S Armenia, NE Turkey and NW Iran SVL 6cm, TL 16cm Inhabits warm steppe areas; in the Little Caucasus may be found up to 1,700m above sea level. Engelmann et all suggest that the main diet is ants. These lizards are active even in the hottest hours around midday. Hibernation lasts from the end of September to the beginning of April. Coloration: overall coloration dark black-brown, with 6 yellowish-white longitudinal stripes that fade somewhat with age. The two centre stripes merge above the hind legs and end on the tailbase,unlike the others. Reproduction: the females produce two clutches, each of 2-4 eggs, per year, the first at the end of June/beginning of July and the second at the end of July/beginning of August. The young hatch between the end of July and the end of September.
E. strauchi Strauch's Racerunner S Armenia, S Azerbaijan, NE Turkey, NW & NE Iran, S Turkmenistan SVL 8cm, TL 20cm  
E. s. strauchi    
E. velox Rapid Racerunner 



Volga basin, W. Caspian; C. Asia SVL 7cm; TL 12cm



Measurements given apply to European individuals.
E. v. velox    
E. v. caucasia S Russia (Caucasus and Dagestan)  


I would like to acknowledge the crucial part played in this page by Lanka and Vit's Amphibians and Reptiles, from which accounts of the more obscure lacertids were sometimes lifted almost verbatim. Also consulted at many points were Mattison's Lizards of the World and Keeping and Breeding Lizards. DeVosjoli's Lizard-Keeper's Handbook and Wynne's Lizards in Captivity were also consulted, although the latter is now somewhat out of date with the species names. The Heidelberg zoological classification website was also a source of much useful clarification.


Chris Davis has some excellent information on the captive breeding of lacertids, plus some beautiful photographs.

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