The Long-tailed Grass Lizard
Long-tailed Grass Lizard Takydromus sexlineatus Daudin, 1802
Robert George Sprackland, Ph.D.
Family: Lacertidae, a family distributed throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa. This species is found in Southeastern Asia, in grasslands, swamps, and some forests.
Comment: This species is a lizard equivalent of a community tank choice, because they can be housed with other non-aggressive species with a similar head + body length.
Appearance: The six or so species in the genus Takydromus are easily recognized by their extremely long tail, which is five to seven times longer than the head and body. The head is long, acute, and high, the eardrum is visible, and functional eyelids present. Body scales are large, rectangular and keeled. An enlarged row of dorsal scales runs along the back on each side of the body. There is a distinct lateral fold near the belly on each flank. The limbs are of normal size, but the digits are very long and thin, another adaptation that helps to distribute the lizard’s weight. Belly scales are large, rectangular, and arranged in distinct rows. The tail is stout, round in section, and covered in large scales. If detached, a new tail will regrow.
Adult long-tailed grass lizards range in size from 1.5 to 2.15 inches (head + body), or 10 inches total for a large adult.
Coloration: This species is variable in colour. The body is generally brown with up to six rows of pale yellowish stripes. The sides of the body may be dark brown, light brown, olive or grass green.
Distribution: Broadly ranging throughout southern and southeastern Asia, from seasonally moist regions of eastern India through Burma, Thailand and western Indonesia, and north through Vietnam, Loa, and Cambodia.
Habitat and Habits: Long-tailed grass lizards spend much of the day “floating” along the tips of tufts of thick grasses, where they actively forage for the small arthropods that make up their diet. They are most common in grasslands that receive regular seasonal rains or are near standing forests, but are absent from more arid regions. At night they typically coil around or crawl into the bases of the long grasses, or seek refuge under boards, logs, or other debris. They are not particularly territorial, so males and females are often observed near each other.
Breeding: Rarely reported, and usually something just done by well cared-for specimens. Females lay two to four small white eggs that are deposited among the bases of grasses or under logs, places where the humidity can stay around 75 – 80%. Natural breeding season occurs from April through June, and females may lay up to seven clutches per year. Hatchlings, though tiny (0.33 inches, head + body), already have the characteristically long tail. Feed hatchlings wingless fruit flies and “pinhead” sized crickets.
Availability: Fairly common in the pet trade, where they are typically housed in large terraria along with anoles and house geckos. This is one of the few species that can do well in such a mixed-species environment. Price is generally under $10 (U.S.).
Care: Long-tailed grass lizards are active, quick runners that live where grasses can grow quite high. The long stout tail is used to distribute body weight – works like a snowshoe – so lizards can skim across the tops of thin tufts of grass. At night they retreat to the bases of grass bunches, under logs and loose bark, or in other refuge. They do not burrow. Surface cover, such as small plants or boards, is essential. Lizards take their water from leaves and off glass, so provide a light misting at least three times a week (twice or more in summer). Keep temperature in the range of 72-95º F. Lighting is important; provide an ultraviolet lamp for 2-3 hours each day.
Long-tailed grass lizards feed on small soft-bodied arthropods in nature, taking flies, butterflies, beetles, ants, termites, and mall spiders. Terrarium specimens do well on a diet of small crickets, fruit flies (wingless or normal), and wax worms. Each adult lizard needs about six mealworms (or equivalent) per week. Always provide a shallow dish of clean water, and spray terrarium plants at least three times per week.
Pet Potential: These lizards are extremely hardy in captivity, and make good pets. The tail can be dropped if the lizard is roughly or improperly handled, but it is not as likely to happen as it is for many other small lizards. Long-tailed grass lizards can safely be housed with other lizards with a similar body size, such as small skinks, geckos, and anoles (see photograph).
Dr. Sprackland is a herpetologist and author. His new book, GIANT LIZARDS 2nd edition, is set for release by TFH Publications in January 2009. See previews at www.robertsprackland.com.
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