Uromastyx hardwickii

Uromastyx hardwickii

Taxobox | name = Hardwick's spiny-tailed lizard
status =

image_width = 240px
image_caption =
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Reptilia
ordo = Squamata
subordo = Iguania
familia = Agamidae
genus = "Uromastyx"
species = "hardwickii"
binomial = "Uromastyx hardwickii"
binomial_authority = Gray, 1827
synonyms =

range_map_width = 250px
range_map_caption =

Hardwicke's or Indian spiny-tailed lizard ("Uromastyx hardwickii") is a species of agamid lizard found in the Thar desert and surrounding dry areas in Pakistan and India.


The generic name ("Uromastyx") is derived from the Ancient Greek words "ourá" (οὐρά) meaning "tail" and "mastigo" (Μαστίχα) meaning "whip" or "scourge", after the thick-spiked tail characteristic of all "Uromastyx" species. The specific names commemorates Thomas Hardwicke who brought illustrations of the species from which J. E. Gray described it.


The type locality for the species is Kanauj district in Uttar Pradesh. It inhabits the dry desert tracts of the northern half of the plains of India into Pakistan. It ranges from Uttar Pradesh in the east to Rajasthan in the West and the Kutch area of Gujarat.

Local names

* Punjabi - Salma.
* Hindi - Sanda.
* Gujarati - Sandho.


The Spiny-tailed lizard has a rounded head with a flat snout. It is usually yellowish brown, sandy or olive in colour. It may have black spots and vermiculations and a distinctive black spot on the front of the thigh. It has a dorso-ventrally flattened body with wrinkled skin. It has distinctive tail whorls of spiny scales with large spines on the side which give the lizard its name. The tail is bluish-grey (in Jaisalmer) to sand-coloured (in Kutch).

exual Dimorphism

Male ranges from 40 to 49 cm in length while it is 34 to 40 cm in the case of the female. The male has a longer tail than the female and pronounced femoral pores.

Photo gallery


Generally found in firm ground rather than pure sand dunes, the spiny-tailed lizard is often found living in colonies, sometimes on the outskirts of villages. It prefers elevated patches of land especially in Kutch where it is invariably found on isolated patches of high ground (called "Bets") above the monsoon water level.

Birds of prey are a major predator of the lizard in the desert. The Saker Falcon "Falco cherrug" has been recorded in literature [Mason, C. W. 1911. The Food of birds in India. Thacker, Spink & Co.] but the Tawny Eagle Aquila rapax and other falcons such as the Laggar Falcon also prey on these lizards.
Photo gallery


The spiny-tailed lizard excavates a sloping zig-zagging or spiralling tunnel of 6 to 8 cm diameter and over 2 metres long for itself. The tunnel has an entrance which is flush with the ground and ends in a small chamber.

The lizard basks close to the entrance of its burrow. It is very alert and smoothly slides into its burrow at the first hint of danger. The spiny-tailed hibernates through the winter and emerges in spring. By the time it is ready for hibernation, the lizard puts on long strips of fat on each side of the backbone which presumably enables it to survive the long winter months.


The spiny-tailed lizard is largely herbivorous and its teeth are adapted for a plant diet which comprises the flowers and fruits of the khair ("Capparis aphylla"); the beans of "Prosopis spicigera"; the fruit of "Salvadora persica", and grass. In locust-breeding areas the spiny tailed lizard has been known to feed on nymphs and adults of the locust.

Breeding Biology

"Uromastyx hardwickii" breed in spring after emerging from hibernation. It lays white pigeon-sized eggs.


The flesh of the lizard is said to taste similar to that of chicken. The fat stored in the tail of the lizard is purported to have medicinal properties and for this reason, these lizards are often illegally collected and sold in various parts of India for folk medicine. It is kept in captivity by the cruel practice of dislocating the backbone.


* & aut|Gray, J.E. 1827 A synopsis of the species of saurian reptiles, collected in India by Major-General Hardwicke. Zool. J. London 3: 214-229
*. (1990). "Notes on capture of the Spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastyx hardwickii) in Gujarat". Hamadryad 15: 28
*. (2002). "The Book of Indian Reptiles and Amphibians". Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai, India.

External links

*NRDB species|genus=Uromastyx|species=hardwickii
* [http://www.digimorph.org/specimens/Uromastyx_hardwickii/ Digital morphology]

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