Small-spotted lizard (Mesalina guttulata)

Also known as: desert lacerta, long-tailed desert lacerta
Synonyms: Eremias guttulata, Eremias pardalis, Eremias pardaloides, Lacerta guttulata, Mesalina pardalis, Scapteira punctulata
GenusMesalina (1)
SizeSnout-vent length: 3.9 - 4.7 cm (2)
Total length: up to 14 cm (3)

The small-spotted lizard has yet to be classified by the IUCN.

The small-spotted lizard (Mesalina guttulata) is a small, slim lizard with a long, narrow snout and a light brown-grey body. As its common name suggests, the upperparts of this species are covered in conspicuous light and dark spots, which sometimes form a lined pattern (3) (4). The underparts of the small-spotted lizard are whitish (3).

The limbs of the small-spotted lizard are relatively robust, and the toes are long and thin (3). The small-spotted lizard has a very long, slender, banded tail, which measures around twice the length of the head and body (3) (4) and is blue in juveniles (4). The female small-spotted lizard has a proportionately longer body and slightly smaller head than the male (3).

In the Gebel Elba mountain range in Egypt, individual small-spotted lizards can vary in colouration and pattern depending on the altitude, with those at higher elevations exhibiting stronger patterning and darker colours compared to those at lower elevations. The population of small-spotted lizards along the western Mediterranean coast are paler grey in colour and have a nearly patternless body (4).

The small-spotted lizard often occurs with Olivier’s sand lizard (Mesalina olivieri), and for this reason they were initially believed to be the same species. Hybrids between the two species occur very rarely in Israel (5). The small-spotted lizard has a distinct lower eyelid with a ‘window’ of transparent scales which are outlined in black (4), and this feature helps to distinguish it from both Olivier’s sand lizard and Pasteur’s lizard (Mesalina pasteuri), in which the ‘window’ is opaque (3).

The small-spotted lizard has a widespread distribution that extends across North Africa, through the Middle East and into Asia, as far as Pakistan and India (1) (3) (6).

The small-spotted lizard occurs in rocky and gravel-covered habitats on hillsides, mountains and small rocky wadis. It is a cautious and elusive species that is able to survive in extreme desert conditions (4) (5) (6).

The small-spotted lizard is active during the day, particularly in the morning (3) (7). It has a diverse diet which includes a range of invertebrates, such as ants, beetles and spiders (3). This species is reported to hunt by actively searching for prey (6), although it has also been said to wait in the shade of bushes or rocks for passing prey, which it quickly darts out to attack before returning to cover (3).

An elusive species, the small-spotted lizard remains secretive, hiding under rocks and remaining close to the ground when it is active (4). When faced with a potential predator, its primary defence is to flee to the cover of nearby bushes and then remain motionless  (3).

Mating in the small-spotted lizard usually occurs around early April, and is preceded by the male pursuing the female until she remains still. The female small-spotted lizard lays a clutch of two to seven eggs several months later (3).

The small-spotted lizard is abundant and widespread, and it lives mostly in extreme desert conditions which are not likely to be affected by human activity (4). This small lizard is not currently known to be facing any major threats, and in the Mediterranean region it has been classified as Least Concern (LC) according to IUCN Red List criteria (8).

In Egypt, the small-spotted lizard has been recorded in Gebel Elba, which is an area protected as a national park, and its populations are predicted to remain stable (4). There are not known to be any specific conservation measures currently targeted at this small reptile.

Find out more about the small-spotted lizard:

More information on reptile conservation:

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. The Reptile Database (May, 2012)
  2. Werner, Y.L. and Ashkenazi, S. (2010) Notes on some Egyptian Lacertidae, including a new subspecies of Mesalina, involving the Seligmann effect. Turkish Journal of Zoology, 34: 123-133.
  3. Anfibios y Reptiles de Marruecos y Sahara Occidental - Mesalina de anteojos, Mesalina guttulata (May, 2012)
  4. Baha El Din, S. (2006) A Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Egypt. American University in Cairo Press, Cairo.
  5. Schleich, H.H., Kästle, W. and Kabisch, K. (1996) Amphibians and Reptiles of North Africa: Biology, Systematics, Field Guide. Koeltz Scientific Books, Koenigstein.
  6. Perry, G., Lampl, I., Lerner, A., Rothenstein, D., Shani, E., Sivan, N. and Werner, Y.L. (1990) Foraging mode in lacertid lizards: variation and correlates. Amphibia-Reptilia, 11: 373-384.
  7. Pérez-Mellado, V. (1992) Ecology of lacertid lizards in a desert area of eastern Morocco. Journal of Zoology, 226(3): 369-386.
  8. Cox, N., Chanson, J. and Stuart, S. (2006) The Status and Distribution of Reptiles and Amphibians of the Mediterranean Basin. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. Available at: