Bar-tailed semaphore gecko (Pristurus celerrimus)

Also known as: Oman rock gecko
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderSquamata
FamilyGekkonidiae
GenusPristurus (1)
SizeSnout-vent length: up to 4 cm (2)

The bar-tailed semaphore gecko is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN (1).

A small gecko with a long, conspicuously banded tail, the bar-tailed semaphore gecko (Pristurus celerrimus), like other members of the genus Pristurus, is unusual among geckos in being active during the day rather than at night. Whereas most other geckos use calls to communicate, Pristurus species communicate mainly with visual signals such as body postures and tail movements, earning them the name ‘semaphore geckos’ (2) (3).

The bar-tailed semaphore gecko may be quite variable in colour, with local populations tending to match the prevailing substrate (3). It is thought that female bar-tailed semaphore geckos are more boldly patterned on the upperparts than males, while males have been reported to have a distinct darker central line down the underside of the tail (3).

Like other geckos, the bar-tailed semaphore gecko has a relatively flattened, soft-skinned body. However, its eyes are smaller than those of most nocturnal geckos, and the rounded pupils do not contract to slits in bright light (2) (4). The bar-tailed semaphore gecko is similar in appearance to the rock semaphore gecko, Pristurus rupestris, but is slightly larger and has a longer, barred tail (2) (3).

The bar-tailed semaphore gecko is endemic to the mountains of the United Arab Emirates and northern Oman (2) (3).

The bar-tailed semaphore gecko occurs in mountainous habitats, where it is reported to climb on rocks and boulders (3).

Hunting during the day, the bar-tailed semaphore gecko waits on a rocky perch to ambush passing prey, which consists of small invertebrates such as ants (3). Little information is available on the biology of this species, but, like other geckos, it is likely to lay either one or two hard-shelled eggs (4).

The bar-tailed semaphore gecko is most notable for its signalling behaviour (2) (3), which may include extending the legs, raising the body, and raising the rigid, straightened tail before slowly lowering it again (3). Although the exact meaning of the signals is unclear, in some cases they may involve threats or territorial behaviour (3).

Little is currently known about the threats facing the bar-tailed semaphore gecko. However, it is likely to be impacted by a range of factors threatening its habitat, such as overgrazing, the over-extraction of water resources, urbanisation, the introduction of invasive species, quarrying, and an increase in tourist activity (5) (6).

There are no specific conservation measures currently in place for the bar-tailed semaphore gecko. However, this small reptile may receive some protection within the Wadi Wurayah Mountain Protected Area, in the Emirate of Fujairah, United Arab Emirates (5) (6). Designated a protected area in 2009, Wadi Wurayah hosts a rich diversity of wildlife (5) (6) and has been proposed as a Ramsar site due to its permanent freshwater sources and unique natural and cultural heritage (5).

To find out more about the bar-tailed semaphore gecko, see:

For more information on conservation in this region, see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2013)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Hellyer, P. and Aspinall, S. (2005) The Emirates: A Natural History. Trident Press Limited, London.
  3. Feulner, G.R. (2004) Tail signalling in the semaphore gecko Pristurus celerrimus. Tribulus, 14(1): 18-22. Available at:
    http://www.enhg.org/trib/V14N1/TribulusV14N1Searchable.pdf
  4. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Tourenq, C., Khassim, A., Sawaf, M., Shuriqi, M.K., Smart, E., Ziolkowsi, M., Brook, M., Selwan, R. and Perry, L. (2009) Characterisation of the Wadi Wurayah catchment basin, the first Mountain Protected Area of the United Arab Emirates. International Journal of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, 35(4): 289-311.
  6. WWF - Wadi Wurayah, Fujairah (January, 2011)
    http://uae.panda.org/what_we_do/completed_projects/wadi_wurayah/