Tuesday 21 May
Pygmy lizard (Cophotis ceylanica)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Pygmy lizard fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Pygmy lizard description
The pygmy lizard is one of 14 agamid species endemic to Sri Lanka (1). One of the slowest-moving reptiles in the country, the pygmy lizard can be easily identified by the irregular-shaped body scales and unique, curled, prehensile tail (2). Adults are dark brown, and males bare a distinctive white stripe from their snout to their shoulder, and white rings around their tail.
- Also known as
- Dwarf lizard, prehensile-tailed agama, small-horned lizard. Top
- Bahir, M. & Surasinghe, T. (2005) A conservation assessment of the Sri Lankan agamidae (Reptilia: Sauria). The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 12: 407 - 412. Available at:
- The University of Edinburgh: Project Knuckles 2005 [Phase II] Preliminary Report:
- The process by which the concentrations of some toxic chemicals gradually increase in living organisms as they breathe contaminated air, drink contaminated water, or eat contaminated food.
- Active during the day.
- A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Capable of grasping.
- Bahir, M. and Surasinghe, T. (2005) A conservation assessment of the Sri Lankan agamidae (Reptilia: Sauria). The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 12: 407 - 412. Available at:
- SriLankaReptile.com (November, 2006)
- The University of Edinburgh: Project Knuckles 2005 [Phase II] Preliminary Report (November, 2006)
- Project Knuckles (November, 2006)
- Animal Diversity Web (November, 2006)
- JETWING Eco Holidays: In search of the Dwarf Lizard (November, 2006)
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
Pygmy lizard biology
Few studies of the pygmy lizard have taken place and little is therefore known of its biology, but more general information does exist on agamids as a family. Agamids are diurnal and visually-orientated, with their crests and other ornamentation thought to serve as important signals in establishing and maintaining territories or in courtship (5). Unlike the vast majority of agamids (5), the pygmy lizard does not lay eggs, but rather gives birth to live young after the eggs hatch within its body, a process known as ovoviviparity (6). This is thought to be an adaptation to the cold montane climate, where eggs may be exposed to chilling overnight (6).Top
Pygmy lizard range
Confined to Horton Plains, Hakgala and the Knuckles Mountain range in Sri Lanka (1). Many experts suspect that the Knuckles population is distinct from the populations found elsewhere in the country and may qualify as separate subspecies (3) (4).Top
Pygmy lizard habitat
Found in tropical moist montane forests, between 1,300 and 2,200 m above sea level (1).Top
Pygmy lizard status
Classified as Endangered (EN) using the IUCN (2001) Red List criteria (1), but not yet officially listed on the IUCN Red List.Top
Pygmy lizard threats
Pygmy lizard populations suffered mass mortality during the mid-1990s in the Nuwara Eliya and Hakgala areas, where hundreds of specimens died daily, plummeting the previously high populations into virtual extinction. The population at the Knuckles Mountains is thought to have endured a similar drastic population crash, and there were even fears that the population was extinct, until a handful of individuals were located in the 2004/5 research expeditions known as Project Knuckles. The precise causes are unknown, although these deaths are believed to be a result of climatic changes (3). Sri Lanka’s montane forest have also experienced severe habitat fragmentation and loss during the last two centuries as a result of clearance for cinchona, coffee, tea, cardamom and rubber plantations, for grazing livestock, by logging companies, illegal logging and removal of timber by peripheral villagers. In addition, further threats facing other Sri Lankan agamids include rainwater acidification causing forest die-back, and pesticides potentially causing bioaccumulation (1).Top
Pygmy lizard conservation
Project Knuckles 2004, and a follow-up expedition in 2005, were initiated to conduct the first in-depth study of reptiles and the primary threats facing them in the Knuckles Mountain Range. It was discovered that the region held some of the highest reptile diversity in the country, and is therefore an important site for conservation. As of 2000, areas above 1,067 m above sea level in the Knuckles Mountains were given protected status as conservation forest (3). With 11 out of Sri Lanka’s 17 agamid species being threatened with extinction, in what is the most heavily populated of the world’s 25 Biodiversity Hotspots, this group of lizards and their diminishing forest habitat are clearly in need of serious conservation attention. It is vital that threatened species restricted to small forest fragments, such as the pygmy lizard, be continuously monitored to assess population trends and, if necessary, the establishment of captive-breeding programmes could play an important role in ensuring their future survival (1).Top
Find out more
For more information on the Pygmy lizard and other threatened agamids of Sri Lanka see:
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
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.