Saturday 25 May
Common sandfish (Scincus scincus)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Common sandfish fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Common sandfish description
Among the world’s most accomplished burrowers are a genus of desert-dwelling skinks (Scincus sp.) commonly known as the sandfish (3) (4). As the name suggests, sandfish have the remarkable ability to move with considerable speed below the surface of loose sand (5) (6). This unusual behaviour is attributable to a number of physical adaptations including a streamlined body, highly polished skin, strongly developed limbs, a chisel-shaped snout, and reduced ear openings (5) (7) (8). With several recognised subspecies, the common sandfish is quite variable in appearance, but generally has yellow to tan scales with well defined, broad, grey bands across its back (3) (7).
- Also known as
- Iranian sandfish.
- Length: 15 cm (2)
- International Reptile Conservation Foundation:
- A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
- CITES (January, 2009)
- Bartlett, P.P., Griswold, B. and Bartlett, R.D. (2001) Reptiles, Amphibians, and Invertebrates: An Identification and Care Guide. Barron's Educational Series, New York.
- Bartlet, R.D. (2003) Spiny-Tailed Agamids (Uromastyx and Xenagama). Barron's Educational Series, New York.
- Bartlett, P.P. (1997) Lizard Care from A to Z. Barron's Educational Series, New York.
- Baumgartner, W., Fidler, F., Weth, A., Habbecke, M., Jakob, P., Butenweg, C. and Böhme, W. (2008) Investigating the Locomotion of the Sandfish in Desert Sand Using NMR-Imaging. PLoS ONE, 3(10).
- ScienceDaily (June, 2009)
- Hellyer, P. and Aspinall, S. (2005) The Emirates: A Natural History. Trident Press Limited, United Arab Emirates.
- Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
Common sandfish biology
Contrary to what was previously thought, recent studies have shown that rather than pulling their limbs close to the body, sandfish move through sand by rotating their legs back and forth in a manner much like the crawl stroke in swimming (5) (6). However, while they are extremely efficient at moving beneath the sand, in the absence of a perceived threat, sandfish do actually prefer to travel on the surface. Although the ear openings are small, these skinks have excellent hearing, which enables them to detect insect prey moving below the surface (7).Top
Common sandfish range
Species in the Scincus genus are distributed over an extensive belt of desert from the west coast of Africa, through the Sahara and into Arabia (5).Top
Common sandfish habitatTop
Common sandfish status
This species has yet to be assessed by the IUCN.Top
Common sandfish threatsTop
Common sandfish conservation
There are no known conservation measures in place for the common sandfish but owing to its occurrence in a sparsely populated region of the world, it is probably buffered to some extent from human impacts.Top
Find out more
To learn more about reptile conservation visit:
AuthenticationThis information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: firstname.lastname@example.orgTop
More »Related species
Play the Team WILD game
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Creative commons material
Any other use