Added 31 May 2002.

A look at the

Subfamily GEKKONINAE - "True" Geckos


Genus TROPIOCOLOTES - Pygmy Geckos

A small genus of very small geckos, mostly about 2" or less in total length. The body is very elongated and the head oval and equal or lesser in width to the body. The digits have a long claw. Scales are fairly large. KKS have full morphological details for the genus.

Of all the species, it seems T. tripolitanicus is the only one seen with any regularity in the pet trade. Szczerbak and Golubev found that their captives calmed down reasonably quickly in captivity, although they were alert and agile. Henkel and Schmidt recommend a terrarium for terrestrial desert species with a 1-3 cm deep substrate of sand and furnished with flat stones and cork bark. For breeding purposes a cooler "winter period" will stimulate reproduction. Eggs can be left in the terrarium or incubated at 25-28 deg C. The young hatch after 58-64 days. For best results Henkel and Schmidt recommend separating the young and raising them in small groups in separate terraria.

Rogner has a short section on T. steudneri. He recommends a similar shaped terrarium with a daily temperature of 25-30 deg C, dropping to 20 deg C. He also suggests spraying the terrarium lightly about an hour after the lights go off in order to provide the geckos with drinking water (this presumably equating to nocturnal precipitation at night).

NOTE: KKS in the text refers to Kästle, Kabisch and Schleich - see Bibliography.

T. nattereri, Natterer's Gecko T. nubicus, Nubian Gecko T. scortecci, Scortecci's Dwarf Gecko
T. steudneri, Steudner's (Dwarf) Gecko T. tripolitanus, Tripoli Dwarf Gecko  

Scientific Name Common Name Distribution Size Notes
T. helenae   Iran, Pakistan    
T. latifi   Iran    
T. nattereri Natterers Gecko Libya: W Sinai: Gulf of Aquaba 1¼" Formerly considered part of the species T. steudneri, and still so by some authorities. This impression may be reinforced by the fact that the range of this gecko is broken up into several areas. Scalation details: 20 supralabials. 1st postmental contacts 1st & 2nd supralabials, 2nd postmental the 2nd & 3rd supralabials. 56-60 scales round midbody. Scalation is large, smooth and imbricate. Fingers: 20 subdigital lamellae under 4th toe. Breeding: males can be distinguished by two large preanal scales with pores. Little else is known about this species. Coloration is presumably similar to that of T. steudneri.
T. nubicus Nubian Gecko? Egypt ?" No other details so far available.
T. scortecci Scortecci's Dwarf Gecko Yemen, Oman 2½" (40mm) Pinkish yellow or light yellow gecko. A dark brown stripe runs from the nostril through the eye and toward the ear and stops beyond the shoulder blade. The stripes branch on each side above the shoulder blade and join on the neck, forming a collar-like pattern [Szczerbak & Golubev]. There are no stripes on the back, but each dorsal scale is darker in the centre than the body colour. There are 10-12 dark brown stripes on the tail from base to tip. Ventral surfaces are whitish. Little is known of the ecology, but these geckos have been found under rocks in areas with bushy vegetation and in sandy gravel and gravel areas. Scalation details: 9-11 supralabials, 6-9 infralabials. Scales across head 10-16. Ventral scales across body 36-50. Mental scale varies in shape, being triangular, pentagonal, hexagonal or trapezoidal. 0-3 pairs of postmentals: scales in the 1st pair may be in contact or separated by 1-2 scales. Fingers: 12-19 subdigital lamillae. Breeding: males may have a pair of poorly developed preanal pores, often separated by 1-2 scales, and a swelling is sometimes noticeable beneath the base of the tail. Otherwise there is no data available as yet on reproduction.
T. steudneri Steudner's (Pygmy) Gecko North Africa (Algerian Sahara as far as Egypt), Sudan, Sinai, Israel 2¼" One of the larger Tropiocolotes species. Although mainly terrestrial it can also climb and jump, and is sometimes found in vertical habitats [KKS] as well as in hamada. It is regularly found near wadis and often underneath stones. Szczerbak & Golubev note also that in the Sahara it can be found in tree trunks, but that otherwise all areas of habitation are found on rocky hills that are vegetation-free, dry and windy and very much heated by the sun. Activity pattern is strictly nocturnal [KKS]. These geckos make a series of squeaking calls, believed to be communicatory in purpose. Overall coloration is sandy. There are 7-8 alternating black and white transverse bands on the body and 12-13 dark bands on the tail. On Egyptian specimens there may be a large number of dark spots and dots and the transverse bands may be vague. On Palestinian individuals are 4-5 thin, wavy dark transverse bands edged on the rear with a white stripe. Szczerbak & Golubev kept the species in captivity and noted that in the terrarium they do not dig burrows but lay on flat stones. Although cautious they quickly became tame. They were fed on various flying insects, suggesting that fruitflies and possibly pinhead crickets would be ideal fare for captive individuals. Scalation details: 6-9 [some say 8-10] supralabials. 6-8 infralabials. 2-4 pairs of postmentals: posterior postmentals in contact or separated. 12-17 scales across head. 48-51 scales round midbody. 46-55 ventral scales across body. Scalation is imbricate, smooth ventrally and mostly smooth dorsally. The smooth venter help to distinguish this species from T. tripolitanus. Fingers: 14-19 [some say 15-18] subdigital lamellae under 4th toe. Breeding: males can be distinguished by two large preanal scales with pores. Other than that there is no information available on their reproduction.
T. tripolitanus Tripoli Dwarf Gecko N & E Africa 3" (80 mm) Widely distributed species: tail longer than SVL and tapers to a fine point. It is also found in a variety of habitats: apart from the normal desert microhabitats (hamada, stone and rock formations, sparsely vegetated dunes) it is also found in sandy areas with Arista grass and, in Niger, and in large numbers in millet fields. It preys on mainly small insects (termites, ants and small moths [KKS]) and is preyed on in turn by birds and larger reptiles. This gecko has been fairly well studied and as such makes a good terrarium subject, not least because it is not aggressive towards conspecifics [KKS]. Coloration is basically sand-brown, but the dorsal patterns vary. There is a brown streak on the side of the head and neck which passes through the eye and ends above the forelegs. (In T.t. somalicus, these stripes merge on the neck in a horseshoe pattern). Apart from this, there are often dark brown spots and/or small spots on the head and dorsal surfaces. There may also be up to seven vague transverse bands on the body and up to 10 bands on the tail. The ventral surfaces are white. The different subspecies are differentiated by the postmental scales. It should be noted that not all subspecies are recognised by all authorities: some only recognise T. t. somalicus, while others only recognise algericus and occidentalis. See Szczerbak and Golubev for a discussion of the subspecies and the various authorities. Scalation details: 7-10 supralabials, of which 2-3 reach orbit. 5-8 infralabials. Postnasals and internasals much larger than surrounding scales. Nostrils pierced between the rostral, the 1st labial and 3 nasals or between the 1st supralabial and two nasals. The mental is followed by a pair of chin shields. 8-13 scales across head. 42-48 scales round midbody. 34-48 ventral scales across midbody. Scalation is imbricate and rhomboidal, with dorsal and ventral scales strongly keeled. Fingers: 11-17 subdigital lamellae. Breeding: takes place May-October, with up to 6 clutches of 2 eggs being laid every 4 weeks.
T. t. tripolitanus Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Niger Wide suture between 1st pair of postmental scales and second infralabials, 42-48 scale rows around body.
T. t. algericus SW Morocco, Algerian Sahara Short suture between 1st pair of postmental scales and second infralabials, as opposed to wide suture in T. t. tripolitanus. Small scales in upper ocular region. 44 scale rows around body.
T. t. apoklomax Mali 46-54 scale rows around midbody, no contact between the second postmentals and first infralabials [T Papenfuss, cited in Szczerbak & Golubev]. Papenfuss also noted variations in the number of scale rows: specimens from Kombori had 46-52 scales around midbody, whereas those from Sanghi and Bandiagara had 52-54.
T. t. occidentalis W Sahara 35-41 scales around midbody. Other distinguishing features for the species, namely the postmentals and small scales in the upper ocular region, apparently difficult to discern [H W Parker, cited in Szczerbak & Golubev].
T. t. somalicus E Africa In T.t. somalicus, the streaks running through the eyes merge on the neck in a horseshoe pattern. Also has both posterior postmentals and small scales in the upper ocular region [H W Parker, cited in Szczerbak & Golubev].


Echsen I [Lizards], Rogner, Ulmer, 1992.

Geckos, Henkel and Schmidt.

Gecko Fauna of the USSR and Contiguous Regions, N N Szczerbak and M L Golubev, SSAR 1996 (Russian-language original Kiev 1986). Very useful for details of T. scortecci and T. tripolitanus, particularly regarding discussion of the subspecies of the latter.

Amphibians and Reptiles of North Africa, W Kästle, H H Schleich and K Kabisch, Koeltz Scientific Books, Germany 1996. Outstanding review of N African herpetofauna giving detailed account of each species. Useful entries on T. nattereri and T. tripolitanicus.

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