Vertebrate fauna of SE Asia


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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024










Lizards & Crocodilians of  Southeast Asia

From the tiniest of geckos inhabiting people's houses to huge monitor lizards of up to 3 metres, Southeast Asia's lizards have evolved to fill an amazing range of ecological niches. The shapes, colours and mode of life of the region's lizards is diverse in the extreme. New species are constantly being discovered, particularly in the biodiversity hotspot which is the island of Borneo.

The most remarkable of the region's lizards are the gliding lizards (or 'flying dragons') of the genus Draco. These highly evolved agamids possess a winged structure (the patagium) which allows them to glide long distances from tree to tree. The most diverse group of lizards are the smooth-bodied skinks : often overlooked, these elusive animals are masters at quietly disappearing from view.

The examples shown here give a snapshot introduction to the complex world of Southeast Asia's lizards ...


Crested Lizards  (Agamidae)   This large family of lizards have a generally spiky appearance, with sharp spines behind the neck, along the back and near the eyes. They are often brightly coloured, have long tails and bear sharp teeth. They are diurnal, and mainly arboreal, and the group includes the Gliding Lizards. Worldwide there are around 550 species, with over 70 occurring in Southeast Asia (not including the gliding lizards Draco spp.). 

SE Asia : 15 species (worldwide 17 species), as of 2021.  
Peninsular Horned Tree Lizard
Acanthosaura armata
Masked Horned Tree Lizard
Acanthosaura crucigera
Brown Pricklenape
Acanthosaura lepidogaster 
Titiwangsa Horned Tree Lizard
Acanthosaura titiwangsaensis 

As of 2021 there are 3 species, all of which occur in SE Asia  
Earless Agamid
Aphaniotis fusca
  Ornate Earless Agama
Aphaniotis ornata
SE Asia : 11 species (worldwide 13 species), as of 2021.  
Burmese Green Crested Lizard
Bronchocela burmana
 Green Crested Lizard
 Bronchocela cristatella
  Maned Forest Lizard
Bronchocela jubata
SE Asia : 12 species (worldwide 23 species), as of 2021.  
Vietnam Blue Crested Lizard
Calotes bachae
Forest Crested Lizard
Calotes emma 
  Blue Crested Lizard
Calotes mystaceus
  Changeable Lizard
Calotes versicolor   
As of 2021 there are 16 species, all of which occur in SE Asia  
Borneo Anglehead Lizard
Gonocephalus borneensis
  Chameleon Anglehead Lizard  G. chamaeleontinus
Great Anglehead Lizard
Gonocephalus grandis   
  Orange-ringed Anglehead
Gonocephalus liogaster
1 species, which occurs in  SE Asia  
Robinson's Forest Dragon
Malayodracon robinsonii
As of 2021 there are 6 species, all of which occur in SE Asia  
Bornean Horned Lizard
Harpesaurus borneensis

Gliding Lizards  (Agamidae, Genus : Draco)   Also known as 'Flying Dragons', these lizards possess a gliding structure, or patagium, attached to specialised ribs which can be extended away from the body. They cling to tree trunks, where they feed on ants, and may be glimpsed gliding many metres to another tree. They also have a brightly coloured dewlap, or gular flag, beneath the neck which is extended for display purposes.  There are more than 40 species, the majority occurring in Southeast Asia.  Examples :

Blanford's Gliding Lizard
Draco blanfordii
Boschma's Gliding Lizard
Draco boschmai
  Orange-bearded Gliding Lizard
Draco fimbriatus
Formosa Gliding Lizard
Draco formosus
  Red-barbed Gliding Lizard
Draco haematopogon 
Spotted Gliding Lizard
Draco maculatus
Black-bearded Gliding Lizard
Draco melanopogon 
Fringed Gliding Lizard
Draco punctatus
Five-banded Gliding Lizard
Draco quinquefasciatus
Sulawesi Lined Gliding Lizard   Draco spilonotus   
Sumatran Gliding Lizard
Draco sumatranus 
Barred Gliding Lizard
Draco taeniopterus
Common Gliding Lizard
Draco volans     



Butterfly Lizards  (Leiolepididae)   This small family comprises 9 species which all occur in Southeast Asia. Around half of the species are parthenogenic, meaning an all-female species which reproduces by cloning without the need of a male. These are diurnal, sun-loving, terrestrial lizards which live in burrows in loose, sandy soil. Males have brightly coloured flanks with complex patterning.  Examples :

Common Butterfly Lizard
Leiolepis belliana
  Reeves' Butterfly Lizard
Leiolepis reevesii     
  Malayan Butterfly Lizard
Leiolepis triploida     

Eyelid Geckos  (Eublepharidae)   Members of this ancient family still retain 'primitive' features which were lost in gecko groups which evolved later, such as functional eyelids. The family includes 6 genera, of which 2 occur in Southeast Asia; Goniurosaurus (of which 5 species occur in Vietnam) and Aeluroscalabotes felinus, the Cat Gecko (Malay Peninsula, Borneo).  Examples :

Cat Gecko
Aeluroscalabotes felinus

Geckos  (Gekkonidae)   Globally there are well over 1000 species of gecko. They are mainly arboreal, nocturnal forest dwellers, with a wide range of ecological niches and modes of life. Many are highly camouflaged, cryptic forms.  Their evolutionary success in Southeast Asia is largely based on their ability to grip vertical (or even inverted) surfaces with highly evolved foot pads or sharp claws. Some forms have adapted to urban life, and eke a living feeding on insects attracted to artificial lighting.

CNEMASPIS geckos, or Rock Geckos, are a distinctive group characterised by having round pupils, elongated snouts, and long digits with sharp claws with which to grip the surface of rocks and sometimes trees. They prefer shaded habitats. Globally, over 100 species are recognised with around 40 or so in Southeast Asia, many of which have limited distribution on isolated hills.  Examples :
Peninsular Rock Gecko
Cnemaspis peninsularis
  Tioman Round-eyed Gecko
Cnemaspis limi
CYRTODACTYLUS geckos, or Bent-toed Geckos, have slender, inflected digits. In the field the genus may be identified by their body size, large head and large eyes with vertical pupils. They mainly occur in forest, and are typically found on tree trunks. More than 300 species are currently described (as of 2023), and the rate of discovery of new species is high.  Examples :
Cyrtodactylus pulchellus group :
Southern Titiwangsa
Bent-toed Gecko 
C. australotitiwangsaensis
Bintang Lowland Bent-toed Gecko
C. bintangrendah
Langkawi Is. Bent-toed Gecko
Cyrtodactylus langkawiensis
Lekagul's Bent-toed Gecko
Cyrtodactylus lekaguli
Other Cyrtodactylus :
Kinabalu Angle-toed Gecko
Cyrtodactylus baluensis 
Peters' Forest Gecko
Cyrtodactylus consobrinus
D'armandville's Gecko
Cyrtodactylus darmandvillei
Singapore Bent-toed Gecko
Cyrtodactylus majulah
Panti Bent-toed Gecko
Cyrtodactylus pantiensis
Grooved Bent-toed Gecko
Cyrtodactylus pubisulcus 
Marbled Bent-toed Gecko
Cyrtodactylus quadrivirgatus
Peninsular Bent-toed Gecko
C. semenanjungensis   
Tioman Bent-toed Gecko
Cyrtodactylus tiomanensis
  Yoshi's Bow-fingered Gecko
Cyrtodactylus yoshii
Cyrtodactylus sp. (Bali)
Cyrtodactylus sp.


DIXONIUS geckos, or Leaf-toed Geckos comprise a group of 13 species (as of 2022) also known as 'ground geckos' which occur in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. Most species, but not all, have dark spots, blotches or irregular, broken bands on their dorsum and tail. They are ground-dwelling, hiding beneath leaf litter or rocks by day. Examples :
Siamese Leaf-toed Gecko
Dixonius siamensis
GEHYRA geckos, or Four-clawed Geckos, are so-called as the inner digit on all four feet lacks an obvious claw (however, this is not unique to Gehyra). Their eyes are relatively large with vertical pupils, and they typically have loose skin. Globally around 40 are described, with around 10 or so occurring in Southeast Asia. Many are found near human habitation.  Examples :
Four-clawed Gecko
Gehyra mutilata
  Pacific Dtella
Gehyra oceanica
GEKKO - 'Large Geckos'. Globally more than 50 species are described in this genus, of which more than 30 occur within Southeast Asia. Some reach a huge size, including the Large Forest Gecko and the Tokay - the latter may occur in human dwellings. They have robust bodies, large and sometimes huge eyes with vertical pupils.  Some make loud calls which can be heard from a great distance.  Examples :
Tokay Gecko
Gekko gecko  
  Spotted House Gecko
Gekko monarchus
  Palmated  Gecko
Gekko palmatus
  Large Forest  Gecko
Gekko smithii complex
HEMIDACTYLUS geckos, or 'House Geckos', are a large group of lizards with similar microscopic structure of the feet and toes. The group includes many species which have adapted to human dwellings, but many more which are true forest dwellers. Some species are able vocalise quite loudly. As of 2015, more than 130 species have been described, with many forms occurring in Southeast Asia.  Examples :
Frilly Gecko
Hemidactylus craspedotus
  Spiny-tailed Gecko
Hemidactylus frenatus
Garnot's House Gecko
Hemidactylus garnotii
Flat-tailed Gecko
Hemidactylus platyurus
HEMIPHYLLODACTYLUS - Slender Geckos. There are around 25 or so species in this group, which are grouped together on the basis of the structure of the feet and digits. All have elongate, slender bodies, relatively short tails and widely splayed toes. They are nocturnal, arboreal, forest dwellers but may be found on man-made structures near forest.  Examples :
Lowland Dwarf Gecko
Hemiphyllodactylus typus
Titiwangsa Slender Gecko
H. titiwangsaensis
LEPIDODACTYLUS - Scaly-toed Geckos. This group of around 30 or so geckos is grouped together on the basis of the structure of feet and digits. They are typically small in size, and plain in character. Some occur only in forest, whilst others have adapted to human dwellings. Around 10 or so species occur in Southeast Asia, often on islands or in coastal habitats.  Examples :
Maritime Gecko
Lepidodactylus lugubris  

GEKKO (PTYCHOZOON) geckos, or Gliding Geckos, have evolved webbed feet, skin flaps along the flanks and highly modified tails which allow them to glide between trees. They are mainly nocturnal, but can be seen by day clinging to tree trunks. Some are active on buildings adjacent to forest. As of 2019, 13 species are recognised many of which occur within Southeast Asia.  Examples :
Smooth-backed Gliding Gecko Gekko (Ptychozoon) cicakterbang
Kuhl's Gliding Gecko
Gekko (Ptychozoon) kuhli

Lacertid Lizards  (Lacertidae)   This widespread family, of around 300 species of many genera, occurs in Africa, Europe and Asia. Within Southeast Asia the group is represented by the genus Takydromus, of which just 4 (out of 24) species occur. These are lizards with extremely long tails which may be more than 6 or 7 times as long as their head-body length.  Example :

Asian Grass Lizard
Takydromus sexlineatus

Skinks  (Scincidae)   Globally there are over 1500 species of lizard broadly regarded as 'skinks', which is the largest of any lizard group. Skinks have evolved to fill a huge range of ecological niches, however in Southeast Asia most are terrestrial, and a few are expert tree climbers. Skinks typically have smooth, slender bodies, long tails and short limbs : in some species evolution has resulted in the loss of limbs entirely.

DASIA skinks, or Tree Skinks, are a small group of arboreal lizards of which 9 species are recognised, 5 of which occur within Southeast Asia. These are diurnal, arboreal lizards, typically seen on tree trunks. Their body is robust, and typically bears either  stripes running parallel to the body, or bars running across the body. Their limbs are thick, and their dorsal scales are keeled, which gives a matt appearance. The tail is around the same length as the head and body.  Examples :
Brown Tree Skink
Dasia grisea   
  Olive Tree Skink
Dasia olivacea   
  Striped Tree Skink
Dasia vittatum
EMOIA is a skink genus which includes around 80 species. They are particularly diverse on the island of New Guinea where many undescribed species occur. They are diurnal and mainly terrestrial in habits, and are rather shy and fast-moving. Only one species occurs on mainland Southeast Asia, the Mangrove Skink.  Examples :
Mangrove Skink
Emoia atrocostata
  Copper-tailed Skink
Emoia cyanura
EUGONGYLUS skinks are known as mastiff skinks, sheen skinks or short-legged giant skinks. These are long, muscular lizards which move in a sinuous motion. They are terrestrial, and are most commonly seen at dusk, being somewhat nocturnal in habits. There are just 6 species, of which 3 occur in eastern parts of Southeast Asia.  Examples :
Bar-lipped Sheen Skink
Eugongylus rufescens
EUTROPIS skinks, or Sun Skinks, comprise around 30 or so species of which around half occur in Southeast Asia. These are diurnal, terrestrial skinks which forage amongst leaf litter, or bask on fallen trees, rocks or in patches of sunlight on the forest floor. Their bodies are robust and flattened, and their dorsal scales are strongly keeled which gives them a matt appearance. Many species have pale stripes along the upper part of the flanks.  Examples :
Long-tailed Sun Skink
Eutropis longicaudata
  Speckled Forest Skink
Eutropis macularia
  Many-lined Sun Skink
Eutropis multifasciata
  Rough-scaled Brown Skink
Eutropis rudis
  Rough-scaled Sun Skink
Eutropis rugifera
LAMPROLEPIS comprise a genus of just 4 species of closely-related skink, all of which occur in Southeast Asia. This genus includes the stunning, bright green Emerald Skink which occurs in Indonesia and the Pacific Islands. These are diurnal, arboreal lizards with a robust body and pointed snout. Their scales are smooth and glossy, their tails are long - at least 1.5 times head-body length, and their limbs are relatively short.  Examples :
Emerald Skink
Lamprolepis smaragdina
LARUTIA skinks (Larut Skinks) are elongated, snake-like lizards, with tiny, reduced or absent limbs. As of 2015, eight species have been identified, of which 5 are endemic to Peninsular Malaysia, and 1 each in Thailand, Borneo and Sumatra. They are secretive, leaf-litter dwellers and are rarely seen. Examples :
Three-banded Larut Skink
Larutia trifasciata
LIPINIA skinks, or Striped Skinks, are small, slender skinks with smooth, shiny scales, narrow bodies and thin legs. They are terrestrial or arboreal and are secretive in habits. Some species are striped, and others plain coloured. Around 30 species are recognised, the majority of which occur in Southeast Asia and New Guinea.  Examples :
Moth Skink
Lipinia noctua
  Banded Lipinia
Lipinia microcerca
  Yellow Striped Tree Skink
Lipinia vittigera
LYGOSOMA / SUBDOLUSEPS / RIOPA skinks, or Supple Skinks, are small, slender skinks which move in a sinuous, snake-like motion. Their legs and feet are very small. They are terrestrial. and secretive in habits, spending their time foraging amongst leaf litter. As of 2023, some 35 species are recognised, of which around half occur in Southeast Asia.  Examples :
Bowring's Supple Skink
Subdoluseps bowringii  
  Supple Skink (Krabi)
Subdoluseps sp. 
SCINCELLA skinks, or ground skinks, are small skinks, with relatively long tails, fairly thick bodies, and short slender limbs. They are terrestrial in habits and appear less shy than other ground-dwelling skinks. More than 30 species have been described, of which less than half occur in Southeast Asia.  Examples :
Ground Skink (Cambodia)
Scincella sp. 
SPHENOMORPHUS is a widespread and diverse genus of skink with around 150 species currently recognised, of which perhaps 50 or so occur in Southeast Asia, with many more species on the island of New Guinea. Their body shape is rather thickset, with relatively slender legs. They have adapted to a range of ecological niches, including forest floor, tree trunks, swamp forest etc.  Examples :
Blue-throated Litter Skink
Sphenomorphus cyanolaemus
Streamside Skink
Sphenomorphus maculatus
Lesser Sunda Dark-throated Skink    S. melanopogon
Blotched Forest Skink
Sphenomorphus praesignis 
Sabah Slender Skink
Sphenomorphus sabanus 
Spotted Forest Skink
Sphenomorphus scotophilus
'Flores Banded Skink'
Sphenomorphus striolatus 

TYTTHOSCINCUS is a group of small, leaf litter-dwelling skinks, some of which are swamp specialists. These shy, elusive lizards, are rarely noticed : when disturbed they sometimes seek escape by swimming across small streams and partly submerging themselves. They are closely related to Sphenomorphus skinks and, as of 2016, there are 17 species recognised. Examples :
Fraser's Hill Forest Skink
Tytthoscincus bukitensis
Singapore Swamp Skink
Tytthoscincus temasekensis
'Sulawesi Forest Skink'
Tytthoscincus sp.     

Monitor Lizards  (Varanidae)   These are large, muscular predators with strong jaws, sharp teeth and a long forked tongue, which they use to taste the air when searching for prey. Many swim well, and nearly all can climb trees. Worldwide there are more than 80 species, of which 5 occur on mainland Southeast Asia and a further 30 or more on islands in the Philippines and eastern Indonesia. The group includes the Komodo Dragon, the largest lizard in the world.  Examples :

Komodo Dragon
Varanus komodoensis
  Clouded Monitor
Varanus nebulosus
  Rasmussen's Water Monitor
Varanus rasmusseni
  Rough-necked Monitor
Varanus rudicollis
  Malayan Water Monitor
Varanus salvator    


Crocodiles and relatives  (Crocodilia)  These are huge, lizard-like reptiles of which 24 species are recognised worldwide. Within Southeast Asia (and New Guinea) 5 or 6 species are present including the Gharial(?), False Gharial, Siamese Crocodile, Philippine Crocodile, Estuarine (or Saltwater) Crocodile and, further east, the New Guinea Crocodile.  Examples :

    Other SE Asia species :
Crocodylus mindorensis - Philippine Crocodile
Crocodylus novaeguineae - New Guinea Crocodile
Gavialis gangeticus - Gharial (formerly present in Myanmar, but now likely extinct)
Tomistoma schlegeli - False Gharial
Estuarine Crocodile
Crocodylus porosus
  Siamese Crocodile
Crocodylus siamensis 


  See also ... Lizards of Papua New Guinea