Curly-tailed lizard (Leiocephalus psammodromus)

Also known as: Bastion Cay curly-tailed lizard
GenusLeiocephalus (1)
SizeMale snout-vent length: up to 10.5 cm (2)
Female snout-vent length: up to 8.3 cm (2)

The curly-tailed lizard has not yet been classified by the IUCN.

The curly-tailed lizard (Leiocephalus psammodromus) is a little-known lizard in the iguana family, found only on the Turks and Caicos Islands in the West Indies. It has overlapping scales, which are smoother on the underparts, and a fold of skin that runs down the sides of the body. It is usually pale yellow or yellowish-tan, with dark barring crossing the body, although this patterning is often hidden by black mottling or stippling (2). The male curly-tailed lizard is substantially larger than the female (3).

The curly-tailed lizard is only found on the Turks and Caicos Islands (4).

The curly-tailed lizard occurs on small, low-lying sandy islands (4).

Very little is known about the specific biology or behaviour of the curly-tailed lizard. However, it is thought to be an oviparous species, laying a clutch of one to three eggs (3). As in other members of the iguana family, the juveniles likely hatch as miniature adults (5). The male curly-tailed lizards are also thought to defend territories during the breeding season, and aggressively repel intruders (3).

The status of the curly-tailed lizard, remains largely unknown as it has not yet been fully assessed (6). However, there are known to be numerous threats to reptiles and their habitats on the Turks and Caicos Islands (7). Introduced mammals, such as cats and dogs, are known to kill large numbers of reptiles (8), while feral livestock, such as goats, cows, donkeys and horses, also pose a significant threat, through competition for food and altering vegetation communities. Development for tourism is an increasing cause of habitat loss and an additional cause for concern (7).

There is a total of 17 species of reptile found on the Turks and Caicos Islands, five of which are found nowhere else in the world. However, large gaps exist in the understanding of the status of numerous reptiles on the Turks and Caicos Islands. Consequently, a conservation priority for the curly-tailed lizard and other reptiles on the Turks and Caicos Islands is further survey work, with data collected on species’ distributions, habitat requirements, status and biology (6). 

Many of the Turks and Caicos Islands are protected by being encompassed in national parks, nature reserves and sanctuaries. Unfortunately, many of these reserves still suffer from the effects of introduced mammals, and few government resources have been allocated to maintain or enforce protection of non-marine parks. However, the establishment of the National Trust for the Turks and Caicos Islands in 1994 has significantly increased the conservation of terrestrial wildlife. The National Trust has been granted stewardship of Little Water Cay, and similar transfers of Little Ambergris and East Bay Cays are currently pending. On Little Water Cay, boardwalks and observation towers have been constructed at two popular landing sites, to reduce the damaging impacts of tourism, and a visitation fee has been implemented, with the proceeds going towards supporting conservation activities. A trapping programme to remove feral cats from Pine, Water, and Little Water Cays has also been established by the National Trust (7).

Find out more about the conservation of reptiles:

Find out more about conservation in the Turks and Caicos Islands and other UK Overseas Territories:

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:

  1. UNEP-WCMC (March, 2011)
  2. Schwartz, A. and Henderson, R.W. (1991) Amphibians and Reptiles of the West Indies: Descriptions, Distributions and Natural History. The University of Florida Press, Florida.
  3. Smith, G.R. (1992) Sexual dimorphism in the curly-tailed lizard Leiocephalus psammodromus. CaribbeanJournal of Science, 28: 99-101.
  4. The Reptile Database - Leiocephalus psammodromus (March, 2011)'Tropiduridae'))
  5. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. Edgar, P. (2009) The Amphibians and Reptiles of the UK Overseas Territories, Crown Dependencies and Sovereign Base Areas: Species Inventory and Overview of Conservation and Research Priorities. Herpetological Conservation Trust, Dorset.
  7. Alberts, A. (1999) West Indian Iguanas: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC West Indian Iguana Specialist Group, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. Available at:
  8. Henderson, R.W. (1992) Consequences of predator introductions and habitat destruction on amphibians and reptiles in the post-Columbus West Indies. Caribbean Journal of Science, 28: 1-10.