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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Desert Banded Gecko - Coleonyx variegatus variegatus

(Baird, 1859)
Click on a picture for a larger view



Western Banded Geckos California Range Map
Range in California: Red

Blue: San Diego Banded Gecko



Listen to this Gecko





observation link





Desert Banded Gecko
Adult, eastern Riverside County desert
Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko
  Adult, eastern Riverside County desert  
Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko
Adult, Inyo County desert Adult, San Diego County desert Spotted adult - with no bands,
Imperial County. © Stuart Young
Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko
Adult, Inyo County Adult female, Imperial County Adult, San Diego County
Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko
Adult male, Imperial County Adult, Imperial County Adult, Imperial County
Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko
Adult from near Canyon Country,
Los Angeles County © Anonymous
Adult, Santa Clarita, Los Angeles County
© Jeff Ahrens
Adult, San Berardino County desert
© Ben Smith
Adult, eastern Riverside County desert
© Geoff Fangerow
Desert Banded Gecko      
Adult, San Diego County desert
© Patrick Briggs
     
       
Juveniles
Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko
Juvenile, Santa Clarita,
Los Angeles County
Sub-adult, eastern Kern County Juvenile, Imperial County Juvenile, San Bernardino County
© Jennifer Rosta
Desert Banded Gecko Desert Banded Gecko    
Juvenile male, Mono County
© Adam G. Clause
Subadult male, Mono County
© Adam G. Clause
   
       
Comparisons of Banded Geckos in California

Also see Western Banded Geckos, Coleonyx variegatus, in California
Viscaino Zebra-tailed Lizard Viscaino Zebra-tailed Lizard Desert Banded Gecko  
San Diego Banded Gecko (C. v. abbotii) (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

Desert Banded Gecko on the left with a
San Diego Banded Gecko on the right for comparison. © Bruce Edley
 
Peninsular Banded Gecko Gecko Skin    
Peninsula Banded Geckos, (C. switaki) left,
have smooth skin with small granular scales interspersed with larger tubercles.
This will help distinguish them from
Desert Banded Geckos, right,
which have smooth skin with small granular scales but no larger tubercles.
   
       
Difference Between Males and Females
lizard lizard lizard  
Males have spurs at the base of the tail. Females do not. Compare
 
       
Habitat
Desert Banded Gecko Habitat Desert Banded Gecko Habitat Desert Banded Gecko Habitat Desert Banded Gecko Habitat
Habitat, San Diego County
Habitat, San Diego County
Habitat, San Bernardino County Habitat, Imperial County desert
Desert Banded Gecko Habitat Variable Groundsnake Habitat Desert Banded Gecko Habitat Desert Banded Gecko Habitat
Habitat, Riverside County Habitat, Inyo County Habitat, San Diego County Habitat, Imperial County
Desert Banded Gecko Habitat Desert Banded Gecko Habitat Desert Banded Gecko Habitat  
Habitat, Imperial County Habitat, Riverside County
Habitat, Imperial County  
       
Short Videos
Desert Banded Gecko
Desert Banded Gecko    
A night shot of a gecko crawling
slowly and waving its tail.
Three Desert Banded Geckos
out at night in the desert.
   
     
Description
 
Size
2 - 3 inches long from snout to vent (5.1 - 7.6 cm).

Appearance
A small, slender lizard with movable eyelids and vertical pupils.
The head is triangular in shape and wider than the neck, and is usually spotted.
The skin is soft with fine granular scales (without tubercles).
Toes are long and slender.
Tail is constricted at the base.

Color and Pattern
Color pattern is variable, with a pale yellow, pink, or light gray background, and tan or brown bands on the body and tail.
These bands may be broken into blotches, especially on older adults.
In some areas adults do not have broken bands, only spots.
The width of the dark bands is equal to or less than the width of the light areas.
Male / Female Differences
Males have spurs on each side of the base of the tail.
Young
Juveniles tend to have more well-defined unbroken bands than adults and few or no spots inbetween the bands. The bands fade and break up with age.
The head is not as spotted as that of an adult.
Juvenile C. v. variegatus have the general appearance of adult and juvenile C. v. abbotti, and this sometimes causes confusion with their identification.

Life History and Behavior

Activity
Active at night, hiding in burrows or under surface objects during daylight.
Hibernates through the winter (generally November to February).
Curls the tail up and waves it back and forth off the ground when stalking prey.
When grasped, this gecko may emit a short squeak. Listen.
Defense
When threatened, it may drop its tail to distract a predator.
The tail will grow back, typically without the banding pattern matching the rest of the lizard's body.
Diet and Feeding
A variety of small invertebrates.
Breeding
Breeding occurs during April and May. Females lay 1 or two eggs from May to September, which hatch in 45 days.

Habitat
Arid areas including creosote flats, sagebrush desert, pinon-juniper woods, chaparral. Prefers rocky areas, but may occur in rockless ares such as sand dunes.

Geographical Range
Species

The species Coleonyx variegatus ranges through most of Southern California north into the extreme southern part of Nevada and the southwestern tip of Utah, across northwest, southwest, and southeast Arizona into the bootheel of New Mexico, and south down the western edge of the state of Sonora, Mexico and down the entire length of Baja California.

Subspecies

In California the subspecies Coleonyx variegatus variegatus is found in the deserts - on the eastern edge of the Peninsular ranges from the Baja California border east to the Colorado River, north on the northern side of the Transverse ranges and along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Bishop area. It ranges inland through the Kern River Canyon to Granite Station in the western Sierra foothills and eastern edge of the San Joaquin Valley.

Beyond California this subspecies ranges into the southern tip of Nevada, across the western half of Arizona, into northeastern Baja California and mainland Mexico.

The northernmost Inyo County record west of the White Mountains and a first Mono County record for this lizard were documented in the southeastern Chalfant Valley in 2016. Herpetological Review 47(2), 2016


Possible Range of Intergradation With C. v. abbotti

The original description of the range of C. v. abbotti comes from Laurence M. Klauber's original description of the subspecies that was published in 1945:

"Range. -- Coastal and cismontane southern California and northern Lower California from the San Gabriel Mountains, Los Angeles County, south to the west slope of the San Pedro Martir Mountains of Lower California, Mexico. Also Cedros Island off the Pacific Coast of Lower California."
He included localities for the subspecies at Moreno in Riverside County and San Francisquito Hydroelectric Plant 2 in Los Angeles County.
He also included the map below, which, in addition to his comments, shows a small isolated population that appears to be the one on the west side of the Sierra Nevada in Kern County.

Full Species Range Map

Stebbins (2003) and Lizards of the American Southwest (2009) both follow the part of this map that shows C. v. abbotti ranging throughout the Los Angeles basin and up the coast just into Ventura County. But the book California Amphibian and Reptile Species of Special Concern, (Thomsom et al. 2016) shows C. v. abbotti only in San Diego County and just barely over the Riverside County line. I have not seen any museum records to confirm the presence of this subspecies north of San Diego County except for one near Hemet in Riverside County, so I have decided to show the area north of San Diego County as a range of integradation with C. v. variegatus. (This is something I have not seen on any other range map and only represents my ideas.)

In the Santa Clarita area, and in Mono and Inyo Counties (and possibly other areas) some adult Coleonyx variegatus variegatus are marked with well-defined bands and may have a complete nuchal band or light collar marking, but often the heads are spotted and the bands have some spotting. These might just be regional variations where adults retain juvenile markings, though if you consider the old Stebbins (2003) map accurate, and consider that before human settlement C. v. abbotti might have once ranged through the L. A. basin north to Santa Clarita, the Santa Clarita area geckos could also be intergrades. Confusing details like these call into question the validity of the two subspecies. To add to this confusion, Thomson et al. (2016) refer to unpublished data (D. Leavitt, pg. 199) that shows that "In some areas. animals that are morphologically referable to C. v. abbotti are genetically more similar to C. v. variegatus...)

Full Species Range Map 
Elevational Range
From below sea level to around 5,000 ft. (1,520 m). 

Notes on Taxonomy
The species Coleonyx variegatus consists of four supspecies in the US, (two in California) with two more in Mexico.


Alternate and Previous Names (Synonyms)

Coleonyx variegatus variegatus -
Desert Banded Gecko (Stebbins 1966)
Coleonyx variegatus
- Variegated Gecko (Smith 1946)

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
None
Taxonomy
Family Gekkonidae (Eublepharidae) Geckos Boulenger, 1883
Genus Coleonyx Banded Geckos Gray, 1845
Species variegatus Western Banded Gecko (Baird, 1859 “1858”)
Subspecies

variegatus Desert Banded Gecko (Baird, 1859)
Original Description
Coleonyx variegatus - (Baird, 1858) - Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia, Vol. 10, p. 254

from Original Description Citations for the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America © Ellin Beltz

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Coleonyx - Greek: koleos - sheath and onyx - nail, talon or claw - refers to sheathed claws
variegatus
- Latin - of different colors - refers to contrasting elements of color pattern

from Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained © Ellin Beltz

Related or Similar California Lizards
Peninsular Banded Gecko - C. switaki
San Diego Banded Gecko - C. v. abbottii

More Information and References
California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Stebbins, Robert C., and McGinnis, Samuel M.  Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Revised Edition (California Natural History Guides) University of California Press, 2012.

Stebbins, Robert C. California Amphibians and Reptiles. The University of California Press, 1972.

Stebbins, Robert C. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.

Behler, John L., and F. Wayne King. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

Powell, Robert., Joseph T. Collins, and Errol D. Hooper Jr. A Key to Amphibians and Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. The University Press of Kansas, 1998.

Lemm, Jeffrey. Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of the San Diego Region (California Natural History Guides). University of California Press, 2006.

Bartlett, R. D. & Patricia P. Bartlett. Guide and Reference to the Turtles and Lizards of Western North America (North of Mexico) and Hawaii. University Press of Florida, 2009.

Jones, Lawrence, Rob Lovich, editors. Lizards of the American Southwest: A Photographic Field Guide. Rio Nuevo Publishers, 2009.

Smith, Hobart M. Handbook of Lizards, Lizards of the United States and of Canada. Cornell University Press, 1946.

Conservation Status

The following status listings are copied from the 2017 Special Animals List and the 2017 Endangered and Threatened Animals List which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

If no status is listed here, the animal is not included on either CDFW list. This most likely indicates that there are no serious conservation concerns for the animal. To find out more about an animal's status, you can go to the NatureServe and IUCN websites to check their rankings.

Check here to see the most current complete lists.


This animal is not included on the Special Animals List, which indicates that there are no significant conservation concerns for it in California.


Organization
Status Listing
NatureServe Global Ranking
NatureServe State Ranking
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife None
Bureau of Land Management None
USDA Forest Service None
IUCN


 

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