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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California





Western Banded Geckos, Coleonyx variegatus, in California

 






map
Blue: San Diego Banded Gecko
Red: Desert Banded Gecko



Similar Species:

Peninsular Banded Gecko
(Barefoot Gecko)



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Western Banded Geckos are small, plump, nocturnal lizards with thin, soft skin. Color is pale yellow or pink with dark bands and spots. These geckos remain mostly on the ground instead of climbing high up on walls like many species of geckos. They are often found on desert roads on hot nights or hiding under debris in the daytime.

Two subspecies occur in California.They can usually be identified by geographical range.

The descriptions below of the species and subspecies are based on:
Laurence M. Klauber. The geckos of the genus Coleonyx with description of a new subspecies. Transactions of the San Diego Society of Natural History 10(11):133-216. 1945.

 
Western Banded Geckos - Coleonyx variegatus
These characteristics apply to both California subspecies of C. variegatus:

The dorsum is covered with uniform granular scales.
There are more than three brown body bands between limb insertions, or the dorsum is spotted. When present, the dark transverse body bars in the adults are equal to, or narrower than, the light interspaces.
The digits are delicate.
Preanal pores in the males usually number 7 or less.

Desert Banded Gecko Gecko Skin Desert Banded Gecko
The width of the dark body bars is equal to, or narrower than, the light spaces. Scales are uniform and granular Fingers are delicate
     
Difference Between Males and Females
lizard lizard lizard
Males have spurs at the base of the tail. Females do not. Compare
     
Desert Banded Gecko - Coleonyx variegatus variegatus
This subspecies is found in the Mojave and Colorado deserts up into the Owens Valley and into part of the Central Valley.

These characteristics are present on C. v. variegatus but are absent on C. v. abbotti:

The dark body bands in adults tend to have lighter centers, producing a double barred effect. In some cases bars are not present, they are replaced by spotting.
The top of head is spotted.
The nuchal light loop passing around the back of the head is irregular or not present.

Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko
Dark bands often have a light center
Desert Banded Gecko lizard
Some adults have no bands, only spots.
© Stuart Young
The head is spotted.

The nuchal loop extending around the head from the eyes is irregular or not present.
 
     
San Diego Banded Gecko - Coleonyx variegatus abbotti
 
Found west of the peninsular mountains in southern California.

These characteristics are present on C. v. abbotti but are absent on C. v. variegatus:

The dark body bands in adults are a solid color.
The top of the head is also a solid color, not heavily spotted.
A light-colored clearly-defined nuchal loop extends from the eyes around the back of the head.

San Diego Banded Gecko San Diego Banded Gecko Viscaino Zebra-tailed Lizard
  Bands are one color © Stuart Young
lizard
  The head is not spotted.

A light-colored clearly-defined nuchal loop extends from the eyes around the back of the head.

© Stuart Young
 
Comparison
Viscaino Zebra-tailed Lizard Viscaino Zebra-tailed Lizard  
San Diego Banded Gecko (C. v. abbotti) (on fingers)
Intergrade (in the middle)
Desert Banded Gecko (C. v. variegatus) (near wrist)

All three were found in Baja California Norte where the ranges of the two subspecies meet. © Stuart Young

 

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