First added 19 June 2001. Last updated 6 November 2016: updated entries for E. arguta, E. fasciata, E. grammica, E. nigrocellata and E. nigrolateralis.

A look at the Family Lacertidae


Steppe- and Desert Runners, Desert Lacertas


The genus Eremias is predominantly central- and northern Asian in distribution, being found in desert or arid steppe areas, with one species entering Europe. 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.

Anderson gives the characteristics of the genus as follows: head shields normal, but occipital often vestigial or absent; nostril between 3-4 nasals, not touching labial; lower eyelid scaly; collar complete or nearly complete; dorsal scales small or granular, subimbricate or juxtaposed; ventral plates quadrangular, imbricate, smooth, in converging longitudinal rows; digits with or without lateral fringes; tail cylindrical; femoral pores present (except E. aporosceles, for which see entry below).

Eremias lizards are surprisingly short-lived in nature, which may explain why some keepers have found them hard to maintain in captivity. Günther Peters studied Eremias velox and found that the lizards reached sexual maturity at one year and had an average life expectancy of just two and a half years, a life expectancy exceeded even by the notably short-lived anoles. 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. Interestingly, the species E. kessleri [? Grzimek] and E. multiocellatus are ovoviviparous.

Information on most of the species of Eremias is hard to obtain from other than specialist publications. I am indebted as always to the Reptile Database for the lesser known species, ie most of them. Rogner and Arnold, Burton & Ovenden have some details on a handful of species. Some species have been reclassified several times over the past 100 years or so, and some authorities have created five subgenera of the genus: Eremias, Ommateremias, Pareremias, Rhabderemias and Scapteira. Thus some of the species below may be referred to in the first part of the name as one of these subgenera rather than Eremias. On the other hand the genus Eremiasscincus is not truly related to Eremias, being found in Australia and covering two skink (and therefore non-lacertid) species.


E. acutirostris, Reticulate Desert Lacerta

E. afghanistanica

E. andersoni

E. aporosceles, Chagai Desert Lacerta

E. argus

E. arguta, Steppe Racerunner/Desert Lacertid

E. aria

E. brenchleyi

E. brevirostris, Short-Nosed Desert Lacerta

E. buechneri

E. fasciata, Yellow-Headed Desert Lacerta

E. grammica

E. guttulata

E. intermedia, Aralo-Caspian Racerunner

E. kessleri, Kessler's Racerunner

E. lalezharica, Lalezhar Racerunner

E. lineolata, Striped Racerunner

E. multiocellata

E. nigrocellata , Black-Ocellated Racerunner

E. nigrolateralis , Black-Sided Racerunner

E. nikolskii

E. persica, Persian Desert Lacerta, Persian Racerunner, Steppe Lacerta

E. pleskei, Transcaucasian Keeled Lizard/ Pleski's Racerunner

E. przewalskii, Przewalskii's Racerunner

E. quadrifons

E. regeli

E. scripta, Sand Racerunner/Caspian Desert Lacerta

E. strauchi, Strauch's Racerunner

E. suphani, Basoglu's Racerunner

E. velox, Rapid Fringe-Toed Lizard

E. vermiculata




Scientific Name

Common Name





E. acutirostris

Reticulate Desert Lacerta, Pointed-Snouted Racerunner

Iran, S Afghanistan, NW Pakistan

SVL 70 mm

Endemic of the Chagai desert: uncommon [SOURCE]. Scalation details: subocular not bordering mouth; series of broad plates on lower surface of tibia more than twice as broad as adjacent scales. Dorsal scalation: scales of flanks not larger than those of dorsum. Other: 4th toe with distinct fringe on lateral and medial sides; ungual lamellae of fingers and toes with prominent flat lateral expansions. Coloration: reddish-brown mesh over dorsum and limbs, enclosing pale tan or cream spots; top of head light brown with scattered small dark brown spots and marks; venter pale yellow or creamy white. [SOURCE: Anderson]

E. afghanistanica


S Afghanistan


Species first described in 1991: limited to SE slope of Hindu Kush mountains. Scalation details: 44-46 dorsal scales; 25-28 gulars;

E. andersoni

Anderson's Racerunner


SVL 4 cm, tail 9 cm

Found in the Dashte-Kavir desert: as of 1999, known from just 3 specimens. Scalation details: subocular in contact with edge of mouth; frontal and supraoculars not separated by complete row of granules; nostril situated among 3 nasals and widely separated from supralabials. Ventral scalation: 13-14 oblique longitudinal rows. Caudals: supracaudals weakly keeled. Other: 4th toe without long flat projecting scales. [SOURCE: Anderson]

E. aporosceles

Chagai Desert Lacerta

Pakistan, Balochistan


The status of this species seems to be uncertain. It is listed in the Reptiles of Pakistan checklist but not in the EMBL database. However, EMBL does list it in its 1998 revisions as Scapteira aporosceles (Alcock & Finn, 1896) with a view to clarifying its status. It is endemic to the Chagai Desert [SOURCE]. At least one authority considers E. aporosceles to be a synonym of E. acutirostris: see Reptile Database entry.

E. argus


E Mongolia, NE China, C Mongolia and adjacent parts of China (Inner Mongolia), W Korea, Russia (southern bank of Lake Baikal, SW Chitinskaya Oblast, S Buryatia)


Click here for a picture.

E. arguta

(Steppe) Racerunner / Desert Lacertid, Steppe-Runner, Arguta

Danube delta, Caucasus; Mongolia, C. Asia


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. The European subspecies is usually a shade of grey in colour, with somewhat irregular lighter stripes running dorsally and pale ocelli and darker markings: there is usually considerable variation in patterning. 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. Diet is various arthropods, inc. beetles, and small snails. There are five subspecies other than the nominate. See Anderson for a discussion of the Iranian population as possible intergrades. Click here for a picture of E. a. potanini. Scalation details: 3 nasals, lower in contact with 2-3 anterior supralabials; 2 large supraoculars, 1st usually shorter than 2nd, as long as or shorter than its distance from 2nd loreal; frontonasal single; subocular not bordering mouth; 2 rows of femoral pores separated; 5th toe with 2 complete rows of subdigital scales and 1 incomplete row of small lateral scales. Ventral scale rows: 14-20. Coloration: dorsally grey; young with white ocelli edged in black, sometimes forming transverse bands, occasionally 6-8 longitudinal streaks; in adults, ocelli remain or are replaced by black marbling or irregular transverse bars; dark spots or blotches sometimes present on head; venter white. Reproduction: in Europe, mating occurs in April and females lay 3-11 eggs. Incubation time is about two months: the young measure 6cm on hatching. [SOURCE: Anderson]

E. a. arguta

E. a. darevskii


E. a. deserti

Rumania to Azerbaijan

E. a. potanini

Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China

E. a. transcaucasica


E. a. uzbekistana


E. aria


E Afghanistan

SVL 6cm, TL 18½cm

Anderson and Leviton suggested that this species is allied to the E. velox group. Scalation details: subocular does not border mouth; frontal and supraoculars not separated by complete row of granules; 3 nasals, of which lower is in contact with 3 anterior supralabials; anterior enlarged supraocular longer than its distance from 2nd loreal; 1st transverse row of pectoral scales twice as long as wide, and twice as long as succeeding rows; occipital absent; ventrals in 12-14 longitudinal rows. Other: 17-18 femoral pores on each side; toes have single row of single-keeled subdigital lamellae [SOURCE: Anderson and Leviton].

E. brenchleyi


NE China, Russia (south of the Lake Baikal)


The distribution of this species in the Lake Baikal region is disputed (Er & Adler).

E. brevirostris

Short-Nosed Desert Lacerta

N Arabia, Pakistan, SW Iran, W Syria Jordan, Sinai, Iraq, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates


This is another species whose membership is disputed between the genera Eremias and Mesalina. We have placed it in both lists as it may be referred to as either! See EMBL reptile database entry for details.

E. b. brevirostris

E. b. fieldi

E. b. microlepis

E. buechneri


NW China, adjacent parts of SE Kyrgyzstan



E. fasciata

Yellow-Headed Desert Lacerta, Sistan Racerunner

E Iran, SW Afghanistan, W Pakistan

SVL 6½ cm, tail >11 cm

Found on plains with a variety of soils and an associated vegetation of low scattered steppe shrubs [Anderson]. Scalation details: 3 nasals, lower in contact with 2-3 anterior supralabials; frontal and supraoculars separated by complete row of granules; subocular bordering mouth; 21-30 gular scales in straight median series; 2 rows of femoral pores narrowly or not separated; 4th toe with 2 complete rows of subdigital scales and 1 complete row of sharply pointed small lateral scales. Coloration: dorsum with alternating light and dark lines; dark lines vary from pale tan to chocolate brown, light lines creamy white to buff; adults with 5-8 dark stripes that contain no light spots; head uniform brown. [SOURCE: Anderson]

E. grammica

Mesh Lizard, Reticulate Racerunner

S Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, NE Iran, N Afghanistan, NW China


Click here for a picture. Scalation details: lower nasal resting on 2-3 supralabials; subocular not bordering mouth; scales of flanks distinctly larger than those on dorsum; 2 rows of femoral pores narrowly or not separated; 4th toe with distinct fringe on both lateral and medial sides, formed by complete row of sharply pointed lateral scales and complete row of similar medial scales; ungual lamellae without prominent lateral expansion. Coloration: fine reticulum, dark brown or reddish brown, over back and limbs, enclosing cream or tan spots; top of head light brown with scattered small dark brown spots and marks; venter cream-white. [SOURCE: Anderson]

E. guttulata

? Racerunner

Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sinai, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iran, India, S Turkmenistan, N Africa, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Senegal, Niger, Sudan, Syria


Finnish speakers may like to click here for an article on this lizard. The EMBL database considers this to be a member of the Mesalina genus instead. The subspecies watsonana is referred to on the Reptiles of Pakistan checklist as the Long-Tailed Desert Lacerta.

E. intermedia

Aralo-Caspian Racerunner

Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, SW Tajikistan



E. kessleri

Kessler's Racerunner

Inner Mongolia, China


Ovoviviparous species. Although mentioned in Grzimek, this is in fact a synonym for E. przewalskii (see Er & Adler p.204 for further details).

E. lalezharica

Lalezhar Racerunner

SE Iran


First described in 1994: found in the Mt. Lalezhar region. Scalation details: gulars in contact with 2nd pair of submaxillary shields; small scale between prefrontals; 54-59 dorsals. SOURCE: [SOURCE: Rastegar-Pouyani & Rastegar-Pouyani]

E. lineolata

Striped Racerunner

Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tadzhikistan, S Kazakhstan, NE Iran, NW Afghanistan


Scalation details: subocular borders mouth; row of femoral pores does not approach knee; complete row of lateral scales of 4th toes forms distinct fringe or comb in its entire length; 4th toe with 1 row of subdigital scales; Caudals: supracaudal scales strongly keeled, acuminate. Coloration: 7 dorsal stripes, of which outer dorsolateral stripe is widest. [SOURCE: Anderson].

E. montanus


Max SVL 5¾ cm, tail 9½ cm

Scalation details: 1 frontonasal; 2 supraoculars, not completely separated from frontal and frontoparietals; 23-24 gulars; 4-5 postmentals; 63-68 dorsal scales; 13-14 longitudinal rows, 27-28 transverse rows of ventral plates, slightly converging posteriorly; 63-67 small granular scales across dorsum. Coloration: dorsum uniformly dark-brown, no spots or ocelli, interrupted by 5 light longitudinal stripes; vertical stripe bifurcates on nape; 2 paravertebrals on each side; broad dorsolateral stripe containing 1-2 regularly arranged light spots. [SOURCE: Rastegar-Pouyani & Rastegar-Pouyani]

E. multiocellata


S Mongolia, NW China, Uzbekistan, E & SE Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, SE Russia (Tuva)


Ovoviviparous species. See EMBL database entry.

E. m. bannikowi


E. m. kozlowi

Gansu Province, China

E. m. multiocellata

E Xinjiang and Qinghai eastwards through Inner Mongolia to W Liaoning, China: E Kazakhstan to S Tuvin district in Siberia

E. m. stummeri


E. m. szczerbaki


E. m. yarkandensis

W Xinjiang, China: E Kirgizstand, SE Kazakhstan

E. nigrocellata

Black-Ocellated Racerunner

SE Turkmenistan, S Uzbekistan, SW Tadzhikistan, NE Iran, NE Afghanistan


Found in hard, mainly loess soils with ephemeral vegetation [Anderson]. Scalation details: 3 nasals, of which lower in contact with 2-3 anterior supralabials; 4th supraocular usually indistinct; subocular not bordering mouth; 4th toe without distinct fringe, with 2 rows of subdigital scales, of which internal much larger; tympanic scale usually small or indistinct. Coloration: dorsum grey, with largeish light grey or nearly white circular spots bordered with black, in 6-10 more or less regular longitudinal rows; ocelli faint or absent on middorsum; venter white; young similarly coloured but more prominently marked [SOURCE: Anderson]

E. nigrolateralis

Black-Sided Racerunner

Iran (Fars province), C Asia?

TL approx 20 cm / 8”

Found on wide, open silt and gravel plain with luxuriant steppe vegetation [Anderson]. Scalation details: lower nasal resting on 2-3 supralabials; subocular borders mouth; single frontonasal; 2 supraoculars; 5 pairs of submaxillary shields, 41-42 gulars; 3rd pair of submaxillary shields separated by granular scales; lateral scales of 4th toe not forming distinct fringe; femoral pores separated by short space; tympanic shield small, rudimentary; >125 temporal scales. Dorsal scalation: 64-69 scales across back. Caudals: upper caudal scales not distinctly keeled. Coloration: dorsum light tan suffused with pale greenish-brown; 2 or 4 longitudinal rows of dark spots; wide, uniformly black dorsolateral stripe strongly contrasting with dorsum; tail dorsally sandy grey; upper surface of forelimbs sandy greyish-tan; hindlimbs similar but may have few dark spots; no ocelli on body or limbs; top of head olive-brown, with 2 dark brown blotches; ventrolaterally bluish-grey with longitudinal row of 5-9 dark spots; venter bluish-white cream; tail and gular region ventrally whitish cream [SOURCE: Anderson, Rastegar-Pouyani & Rastegar-Pouyani].

E. nikolskii


Usbekistan, N Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, SE Kazakhstan (as far as China), SE Kazakhstan


More of a mountain dwelling species than many of the others. This species has often been reclassified. Scalation details: 45-59 dorsal scales;

E. persica

Persian Desert Lacerta, Persian Racerunner, Steppe Lacerta

S Turkmenistan, N/C/E Iran, Afghanistan, NW Pakistan


Formerly a subspecies of E. velox. Scalation details: 28-38 gulars. Common name taken from Reptiles of Pakistan checklist.

E. pleski

Transcaucasian Keeled Lizard/ Pleske's Racerunner

S Armenia and adj. NE Turkey and NW Iran



E. przewalskii

? Przewalskii's Racerunner

W, C & S Mongolia and adjacent parts of Russia, N China/ Inner Mongolia, E Kyrgyzstan, SE Kazakhstan


Two subspecies, the nominate and E. p. tuvensis.

E. quadrifons

? Racerunner

Nei Monol (Inner Mongolia), China


Found in the Ala Shan desert of Inner Mongolia.

E. regeli

? Racerunner

SE Turkmenia, S Uzbekistan, SW Tadzhikistan, N Afghanistan


Somewhat disputed classification: see EMBL database entry for details. Scalation details: 41-63 dorsals.

E. scripta

Sand Racerunner/ Caspian Desert Lacerta

S Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, NE Iran, Afghanistan, NW Pakistan, SE Uzbekistan, SW Tajikistan


The Uzbekistan population is restricted to the Fergana valley in the southeast.

E. s. scripta

E. s. lasdini

E. s. pherganensis

E. strauchi

Strauch's Racerunner

Armenia, Azerbaidzhan, Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Iran


Scalation details: subocular borders mouth; row of femoral pores does not approach knee; complete row of lateral scales of 4th toes forms distinct fringe or comb in its entire length; 4th toe with 2 complete rows of subdigital scales; Caudals: supracaudal scales keeled, but not pointed behind. Coloration: broad dark dorsolateral stripe from nostril through eye, along body and side of tail; 1-2 additional narrower dark stripes medial to these on each side; remainder of dark dorsal stripes interrupted and broken to form reticulate pattern. [SOURCE: Anderson]

E. s. strauchi

E. s. kopetdaghica

Kopet Dagh racerunner

E. suphani

Basoglu's Racerunner

E Turkey (Lake Van region).


First described as a subspecies of E. velox in 1968 and raised to species level in 1980. See EMBL database entry for details.

E. velox

Rapid Fringe-Toed Lizard, Central Asian Racerunner

Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, W Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, N Iran, N Afghanistan, Pakistan China (inc. Inner Mongolia) Russia (lower Volga region, Kalmyk Steppe, Daghestan), Azerbaijan, E Georgia


One of the most widely distributed of the Eremias species. Click here for a picture. I have been unable to trace complete information on the geography of the three subspecies.

E. v. roborowski

E. velox caucasica

Volga basin, W. Caspian; C. Asia

E. vermiculata

? Racerunner

C/S Mongolia, NW China (Xinjiang east to Nei Mongol), E Kazakhstan




Grzimek, Reptiles

Collins Field Guide: Reptiles & Amphibians of Europe, Arnold, Burton & Ovenden, Collins 1978.

Herpetology of China, Er-mi Zhao and Kraig Adler, SSAR 1993. Useful for details of some of the distribution of the various species and the type locality.

"A New Species of Eremias (Reptilia: Lacertidae) from Afghanistan", Steven C Anderson and Alan E Leviton, Occasional Papers of the California Academy of Sciences No 64, November 22 1967. Describes E. aria, based on one adult and one juvenile specimen.

“A New Species of Eremias (Sauna: Lacertidae) from Highlands of Kermanshah Province, Western Iran”, Nasrullah Rastegar-Pouyani and Eskandar Rastegar-Pouyani, Asiatic Herpetological Review, vol 9, pp 107-112, 2001. Describes E. montanus.

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