Last updated 3 May 2003: added complete listing of species and updated information and navigation.

A look at the

Subfamily GEKKONINAE - "True" Geckos


Genus PACHYDACTYLUS - Thick-Toed or Rough Geckos

A large (about 35 species) and rather ancient African genus, being considered ancestral to some of the other gekkonid genera such as Tarentola (Branch). Members of this genus are rarely seen in the trade, partly because there is a perceived lack of interest in "brown geckos" (as Walls calls them), but mainly because South Africa and Namibia do not allow exports. Only one species, P. turneri (Turner's Gecko) occurs with any regularity in captivity. This gecko was formerly confused with P. bibronii, Bibron's Gecko: any references seen in hobbyist literature to "Bibron's Gecko" probably apply to Turner's Gecko instead. Both species are quite similar and both make good pets.

The genus is characterised by the following: dilated toe tips, usually with undivided scansors: no femoral pores, but preanal pores may be present. Body scales small, granular and non-overlapping, with scattered, large keeled tubercles. Most if not all are nocturnal. They live in a diverse range of habitats and feed mainly on arthropods. The range of this genus is centred on southern Africa, with some reaching East Africa, the northernmost limit of their distribution.

In the table below, measurements are total-length approximations. They are taken mainly from the snout-vent length (SVL) given in Branch, and doubled, since the tail length of Pachydactylus species is about 50% of the total length (see SHDA). We have used centimetres rather than inches for this table due to the small size of most of the species.

There is still much work to be done on the individual species on this table, which will be carried out over a period of time.

NOTES: SHDA refers to the Field Guide to Reptiles of East Africa, Branch to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa. To go to the Bibliography from a given entry, click on B: to return to the Quick Index, click on I.

P. affinis, Transvaal Thick-Toed Gecko P. amoenus P. austeni, Austen's Thick-Toed Gecko
P. barnardi, Barnard's Thick-Toed Gecko P. bicolor, Velvety Thick-Toed Gecko P. bibronii, Bibron's Thick-Toed Gecko
P. capensis, Cape Thick-Toed Gecko P. caraculicus, Angolan Banded Thick-Toed Gecko P. fasciatus, Banded Thick-Toed Gecko
P. fitzsimonsi, Fitzsimons' Thick-Toed Gecko P. formosus, Thick-Toed Gecko P. gaiasensis, Brandberg Thick-Toed Gecko
P.  geitje, Ocellated Thick-Toed Gecko P. haackei, Haacke's Thick-Toed Gecko  P.  kladaroderma, Thin-Skinned Thick-Toed Gecko
P. kobosensis, Thick-Toed Gecko  P. kochii, Koch's Thick-Toed Gecko  P. labialis, Western Cape Thick-Toed Gecko 
P. laevigatus, Thick-Toed Gecko  P. maculatus, Spotted Thick-Toed Gecko  P. mariquensis, Marico Thick-Toed Gecko 
P. monticolus, Thick-Toed Gecko  P. namaquensis, Namaqua Thick-Toed Gecko  P. oculatus, Golden Spotted Thick-Toed Gecko 
P. oreophilus, Kaokoveld Thick-Toed Gecko  P. oshaughnessyi, O'Shaughnessy's Thick-Toed Gecko  P. punctatus, Speckled Thick-Toed Gecko 
P.  rugosus, Rough Thick-Toed Gecko P. sansteyni, San Steyn's Thick-Toed Gecko  P.  scherzi, Schertz's Thick-Toed Gecko
P. scutatus, Thick-Toed Gecko P. serval, Thick-Toed Gecko P. tetensis, Tete Thick-Toed Gecko
P. tigrinus, Tiger Thick-Toed Gecko P. tsodiloensis, Tsodilo Thick-Toed Gecko P. tuberculosus, Tuberculate Thick-Toed Gecko
P. turneri, Turner's Thick-Toed Gecko P. vansoni, Van Son's Thick-Toed Gecko P. weberi, Weber's Thick-Toed Gecko

Scientific Name Common Name Distribution Size Notes
P. affinis Transvaal Thick-Toed Gecko RSA (four northernmost provinces): poss. Free State & SE Botswana 6-9cm B I 
P. amoenus   RSA (Cape Province, Namaqualand)  For some reason this species is not mentioned in Branch. See the EMBL database listing. B I  
P. austeni Austen's Thick-Toed Gecko RSA (coastal areas of W Cape to Little Namaqualand) 6-9cm B I  
P. barnardi   RSA (S Little Namaqualand, Cape Province), Namibia    Formerly considered subspecies of P. rugosus. B I  
P. bicolor Velvety Thick-Toed Gecko Namibia (NW Damaraland and Kaokoveld) 6-8cm B I  
P. bibronii

Bibron's Gecko S. Africa, Angola, S. Tanzania 8-9" Aggressive colonial species, usually found among rocks. Colouring is varying shades of brown, but Bibron's Geckos are distinguishable by five darker brown stripes across the back that are outlined with white spots. The skin is covered with many tubercular scales. This species requires warm dry conditions, in which it will thrive. Despite their colonial habits in the wild (up to 20 have been found in one shelter), cannibalism is not unknown in these lizards and males are aggressive, so they are best kept individually or at most on male and one female, if both are of similar size. Prey consists of insects of various sizes up to the grasshopper: Bibrons are also not hesistant about biting their keeper. Breeding is rare but is a worthwhile goal in view of the restrictions on wildlife exports from this region. Bill Branch commends these lizards as excellent pets. B I 
P. capensis Cape Thick-Toed Gecko RSA (Cape Provinces) 8-13½cm B I  
P. caraculicus Angolan Banded Thick-Toed Gecko SW Angola, Namibia (N Kaokoveld) 6-8cm B I  
P. fasciatus Banded Thick-Toed Gecko Namibia (N Damaraland and Kaokoveld) 8-11cm B I  
P. fitzsimonsi Fitzsimons' Thick-Toed Gecko Namibia (Damaraland), S Angola 13-18cm  B I  
P. formosus Thick-Toed Gecko RSA (W Cape Province) 13-18cm  B I  
P. gaiasensis Brandberg Thick-Toed Gecko Namibia (Brandberg) 10-13cm B I 
P. geitje Ocellated Thick-Toed Gecko RSA (SW Cape, inc. Cape Fold mtns, Port Elizabeth and Cradock) 6-9cm B I  
P. haackei Haacke's Thick-Toed Gecko S Namibia 14-17cm B I  
P. kladaroderma Thin-Skinned Thick-Toed Gecko RSA (inland Cape escarpment on the Nuweveldberg, through to western Karoo and on to the southern Cape fold mtns) 13-17cm B I  
P. kobosensis   Namibia  Very restricted range: see EMBL database listing. B I 
P. kochii Koch's Thick-Toed Gecko Namibia (Cape Cross & vicinity) 8-11cm Closely related to P. mariquensis. B I 
P. labialis Western Cape Thick-Toed Gecko RSA (W Cape from Little Namaqualand to Calvinia) 6-9cm B I  
P. laevigatus   RSA, Namibia, Angola  For some reason this species is not mentioned in Branch in the 1998 edition, but is cited from Branch in the EMBL database listing. B I 
P. l. laevigatus
P. l. fitzsimonsi
P. l. pulitzerae
P. maculatus Spotted Thick-Toed Gecko SE Africa [[RSA (Cape Province, S. Zululand, Natal, Transkei, SE Transvall), Swaziland] 4-5" A grey-brown gecko with dark, sharply outlined spots. It lives among stones and bush roots, in leaf litter or in holes in ground, in the latter case often sharing these with girdle-tailed lizards (Cordylid species) or scorpions. Perhaps as a result of this, many in the wild seem to have regenerated tails. Although rarely seen in the trade, in captivity it apparently tames readily. B I 
P. mariquensis Marico Thick-Toed Gecko RSA, Namibia 8-11cm B I  
P. m. mariquensis RSA (E Cape [Addo] to S Fre State, Ceres and Little Namaqualand)   Scalation: nasorostrals in contact: dorsal scales granular and abutting. B I 
P. m. latirostris RSA (C & N Karoo to Great Namaqualand): Namibia (Spitzkoppe and SW of Brandberg)   Scalation: nasorostrals separated by granular scales: dorsal scales flattened and slightly overlapping. Namibian population is isolated. B I 
P. monticolus   RSA (Cape Province)  Status unclear: not listed by Branch. See the EMBL database listing. B I 
P. namaquensis Namaqua Thick-Toed Gecko Namaqualand: poss. Namibia 14-17cm B I  
P. oculatus Golden Spotted Thick-Toed Gecko Southern Africa 7-11cm White ventral and grey-brown dorsal surfaces with dark band running along both sides and dark stripes across the back as far as the tail. A lateral dark band extends across the eye to the snout. B I 
P. oreophilus Kaokoveld Thick-Toed Gecko Namibia (Brandberg), S Angola 8-11cm B I  
P. punctatus Speckled Thick-Toed Gecko N Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola, Congo 5-7cm B I  
P. oshaughnessyi O'Shaughnessy's Thick-Toed Gecko N Zimbabwe, W Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, E Congo 9-11cm



B I  
P. o. oshaughnessyi As above except Congo 3-4 yellow crossbands on back (4-5 in Zambia). B I 
P. o. kantanganus Congo (Shaba Province) 6-8 thin yellow bands and larger keeled tubercles. B I 
P. rugosus Rough Thick-Toed Gecko RSA [S. Little Namaqualand, Cape Province], Namibia 9-13cm Until recently this lizard was known as Pachydactylus formosus (click here for reference). Very occasionally seen. Branch notes that all three subspecies may be full species. Preferred habitat is dry riverbeds and/or rocky outcrops, where they may either conceal themselves in cracks or in leaf litter, etc. B I 
P. r. rugosus Inland Nambia, from N Cape to Calvinia Distinguished by four yellowish-brown undulating bands across the back (Branch). B I 
P. r. barnardi RSA [S. Little Namaqualand] Now raised to full species status.  B I  
P. r. formosus RSA [W Cape Province] Until recently this lizard was known as Pachydactylus formosus (click here for reference). Very occasionally seen. B I 
P. scherzi Schertz's Thick-Toed Gecko Namibia (coastal plain and inland escarpment, from the Brandberg north to the Kaokoveld) 5-7cm B I  
P. sansteyni San Steyn's Thick-Toed Gecko Namibia (Kuidas, S Kaokoveld, mouth of Cunene River) 7-9cm B I  
P. scutatus Large-Scaled Thick-Toed Gecko N Nambia and S Angola 6-8cm B I  
P. serval Western Spotted Thick-Toed Gecko RSA (S Karoo to Lower Orange River and Great Namaqualand: absent from W Cape and Little Namaqualand): S Namibia 7-9cm B I  
P. s. serval S Namibia Scalation: dorsal tubercles scattered and enlarged, not keeled or raised.
P. s. onscepensis RSA (lower Orange River valley) Scalation: dorsal tubercles scattered, raised and keeled.
P. s. purcelli RSA (W Little Karoo), SE Namibia Scalation: dorsal scales granular, lacks tubercles.
P. tetensis Tete Thick-Toed Gecko SE Tanzania, Mozambique, Lower Zambezi valley Max TL 18cm: avg TL 13-15cm B I  
P. tigrinus
Pachydactylus tigrinus (Tiger Gecko)
Tiger Gecko Zimbabwe, Republic of South Africa (N. Transvaal), E. Botswana, W. Mozambique (S. Blinkwater/Brak River) ? A brown gecko with white stripes in a tiger pattern. I have seen this gecko offered for sale on a business web site, but other than that have no information about it. Click here for EMBL's reference and a link to a photograph. B I 
P. tsodiloensis Tsodilo Thick-Toed Gecko N Botswana (Tsodilo Hills) 9-12cm B I  
P. tuberculosus
Pachydactylus tuberculosus
Tuberculate Thick-Toed Gecko Zimbabwe, Republic of South Africa (N. Transvaal), E. Botswana, W. Mozambique (S. Blinkwater/Brak River) Max TL 17cm: avg 12-15cm A lighter brown gecko than most of its co-species, with pronounced tubercles on the body and short darker brown patches, or stripes, on its dorsal surfaces. The tail is fairly long and tapering. Click here to find a photograph. B I 
P. turneri Turner's Thick-Toed Gecko RSA (Orange River Valley, Free State, NW and N Provinces, N KwaZulu-Natal), Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Angola and Tanzania; poss. Kenya Max TL 18-20cm: avg 12-15cm ??. B I 
P. vansoni Van Son's Thick-Toed Gecko RSA (Free State, E N Provinces, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal), SE Zimbabwe, Mozambique 8-12cm B I  
P. weberi Weber's Thick-Toed Gecko C Namibia, RSA (Namaqualand to W Cape) 7-10cm B I  


Field Guide to Snakes and other Reptiles of Southern Africa, Bill Branch, Struik, 1998. Best guide I have yet encountered on the members of this genus.

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.

Lizards of the World, Mattison

Keeping and Breeding Lizards, Mattison

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


The site has some good pictures of South African Pachydactylus species.

Back to Geckos | Back to Lizards | Back to Reptiles | Back to Herpetology | Back to Homepage