Last updated 12 May 2003: removed other genera to separate pages and updated details for H. africanus and H. corni.

A look at the

Subfamily EUBLEPHARIDAE - Eyelid Geckos


Genus Holodactylus - the African Clawed Geckos

The genus Holodactylus contains two obscure species, of which one (H. africanus) is nowadays sometimes seen in the pet trade. Both are residents of East Africa.

Holodactylus africanus, African Clawed Gecko Holodactylus cornii  


Scientific Name  Common Name  Distribution Size  Notes 
H. africanus African Clawed Gecko (aka Dwarf Fat-Tailed Gecko, Somali-Masai Clawed Gecko) East Africa (SE Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, NE Tanzania) Up to 4" This is a slow-moving, terrestrial gecko. Originally described in Somalia in 1893, it was only found in Tanzania in 1971. It occurs in a wide variety of habitats within the low-lying semi-desert deciduous bushland found in Kenya, on the Ethiopian border and in Tanzania, and in Somalia near the mouth of the Juba River, by the Red Sea, on the Djibouti border and possibly in SE Ethiopia. It seems that this species feeds heavily on termites, which only abound at certain periods tied with rainfall: hence at other times it is inactive, which may account for the prior infrequency of sightings and also the wide difference in tail measurements recorded, if the tail is used as fat storage. Apart from termites it is also known to prey on various beetles. Specimens collected have been found in sandy washes in the wild. These lizards like to burrow, so substrate should be appropriate for this or else a humidified shelter added. See deVosjoli for more details. Click here for the EMBL database entry and links to pictures. Scalation: entire body covered in uniformly sized granules, no enlarged tubercules. There is however some variation according to the region of origin of the individual specimen (see Laurenti). Lacks toe pads. 8-14 supralabials, 8-15 infralabials: 1-5 internasals. Coloration: dorsally a rich chestnut- to reddish-brown, with 4-5 light brown transverse wavy bands on the back and 2-3 on the tail. One on the nape of the neck divides, each "prong" running through and below the eye on either side before meeting up at and covering the snout. There may also be a very pale, almost white vertebral stripe. Ventral surfaces are white. B I
H. cornii African Clawed Gecko East Africa (NE Somalia) Up to 4" Little data so far available. Click here for the EMBL database entry and links to pictures. Scalation details: 14-17 supralabials, 16-18 infralabials: 5-7 internasals. B I


"Déplacement des caractères dans le genre Holodactylus (Reptilia, Gekkonidae)", Prof. Raymond F Laurent, Senck. Biol. 45 3/5 417-423, Frankfurt am Main 1.12.64. I am grateful to this paper for scalation details of the two species. There is also an interesting discussion on the differences between specimens of H. africanus found in differing parts of its range.

Lizards of the World, Chris Mattison

Keeping and Breeding Lizards, Chris Mattison

The Leopard Gecko Manual, P. deVosjoli et al, Herpetocultural Library 1998. Covers Leopard Geckos, Fat-Tails and the other eublepharid geckos, including a brief section on Holodactylus. The older version is also good but only covers the Leopards and Fat-Tails.

Leopard Geckos: Identification, Care and Breeding, R. Hunziker, TFH 1994. Not as detailed as the above but still quite good and again covers most of the other eublepharids.

Geckos: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual, Bartlett and Bartlett, Barrons 1995.

Geckos: Keeping and Breeding Them in Captivity, Walls and Walls, TFH 1999.

Field Guide to the Reptiles of East Africa by Stephen Spawls, Kim Howell, Robert Drewes and James Ashe. Detailed and invaluable review of all reptile species in the region. Has details on Holodactylus africanus.



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