Added 10 October 2001. Updated 11 March 2014: substantially revised Introduction, added details for P. phillipsi and updated Bibliography.

A look at the Family Lacertidae


Shield-Backed Lizards


A genus of African and Arabian lizards, closely related to Latastia distinguished by enlarged scales along the middle of the back.

Boulenger (1917) gave the characteristics of the genus as follows: head-shields normal save for the occasional absence of the interparietal; nostril pierced between 2 nasals and bordered by the 1st supralabial or narrowly separated from it; lower eyelid scaly, more or less transparent in the middle; collar well marked; back with 2-6 longitudinal rows of plate-like scales; ventral plates feebly imbricate, with truncate posterior border, smooth; digits more or less compressed, with smooth or keeled lamellar scales underneath; femoral pores present; tail long, cylindrical; parietal foramen absent; small teeth usually present on pterygoids.

These lizards do not seem to occur frequently in herpetoculture if at all. Rogner (2002) suggests keeping them similarly to Eremias species.

Scientific Name

Common Name





P. hardeggeri


Somalia, Djibouti, E Ethiopia


No data available.

P. intermedius


Sudan, S Egypt, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, N Kenya


Kenyan distribution is confined to the Kaliokwell River region. Apart from the nominate subspecies there is one other, P. i. rudolfensis.

P. lhotei


S Algeria, Niger



P. neumanni


SW Saudi Arabia, Yemen



P. phillipsi

Phillips' Shield-Backed Lizard

N Somalia and adj. Ethiopia


Formerly considered a Latastia species. Scalation details: single postnasal; frontal narrowed posteriorly, scarcely grooved; 2 large supraoculars, preceded and followed by a few small shields and separated from superciliaries by a series of granules; interparietal narrow, separated from small triangular occipital; band-like shield borders parietal externally and another curved one borders the ear supero-anteriorly; temporals granular, smooth; no auricular denticulation; subocular borders lip between 4th and 5th supralabials; gular scales moderate, gradually increasing in size towards the collar; collar curved, consisting of 8-9 plates; 3 anterior pairs of chin-shields in contact; scales roundish, rhomboidal, flat or subtectiform, subimbricate; 2 vertebral rows of strongly enlarged smooth scales, twice as broad as long; 28-30 scale rows at midbody; ventral plates in 6 longitudinal and 26 transverse rows; plates of median and outer rows narrower than the others, but much broader than long; no small pectoral scales; 2 enlarged preanal plates; 13 femoral pores. Other: head rather small; snout short, obtuse; tail very long. Coloration: grey above, with 3 lemon-grey yellow longitudinal streaks, of which the median bifurcates on the nape; sides and limbs dotted with black; lower parts white; young have red tail. Reproduction: no details available. [SOURCE: Boulenger 1898]

P. rudolfensis

Turkana Shield-Backed Ground Lizard

N Kenya


Very obscure lacertid known only from a few localities in the arid parts of N Kenya, in all just five specimens [SKDA]. Considered by some to be a subspecies of P. intermedius. See SKDA for the reasons for its elevation to full species status. Its distinctive characteristic (setting it apart from other E African lacertids [SHDA]) is a pair of longitudinal dorsal rows of enlarged scales. Tail is almost three times the snout-vent length. In coloration the head is greyish tan and the tail yellowish tan. The dorsal pattern consists of six narrow longitudinal white stripes enclosing five wider dark brown stripes. Ventral surfaces are white. Scalation details (as given in SHDA): Dorsal scales: small, smooth (posteriorly faintly keeled), 30-32 rows at midbody. Ventral scales: 6 longitudinal rows, 28 transverse rows. Other: lamellae beneath toes bear two keels, 10-14 femoral pores beneath each thigh. Reproduction: juvenile patterning identical to adults': no other details available. [SOURCE: SHDA]

P. spinalis


W & E Africa (Niger to Ethiopia)



P. zolii


S Libya


Slender and long-tailed lacertid known from only two specimens found in SW Libya and SW Cyrenaica, hence there is some inexactitude over details of the species. It seems to inhabit oases. 6 light yellow longitudinal stripes run dorsally on the maroon back: the two central stripes bifurcate on the nape of the neck. The mid-dorsal scales are enlarged and the tail is red (tailbase itself being dorsally yellowish and ventrally whitish). Ventral coloration is white with bluish-green tinge apart from hindlegs which are yellow below. Limbs are light green-yellow. Scalation details (as given in KKS): supranasals contact one another. Internasals broader rather than long. Prefrontals widely separated by plate. Parietals somewhat shorter than frontal. Interparietal contacts occipital. 6 supraciliaries on each side, separated from supraoculars by granules. 4 supraoculars of which 1st and 4th fractioned, 2nd and 3rd about equal size. 3-4 supratemporals of which 1st is largest. Nostrils separated from 1st supralabial and postnasal by small margin. 5 supralabials in front of subocular. 2 loreals of which 2nd is much larger. 4 pairs of submaxillaries, of which anterior 3 are in contact. Collar: 6 scales. Throat: 25 gulars in median row. Dorsal scales: slightly keeled, 35-36 rows at midbody, 2 vertebral rows enlarged. Ventral scales: 6 longitudinal rows of which the 2 median rows are smaller, 31 transverse rows. Other: 14-15 femoral pores beneath each thigh. Reproduction: no details yet available. [SOURCE: KKS]


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