Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Butterfly Lizards

Butterfly Agamas, Butterfly Runners. Leiolepis sp.

©2000 Melissa Kaplan


As with many reptiles entering the pet trade in the past decade, many have been subject to little field research and most have very little information documented on captive care requirements, breeding, etc. Because they have been uncommon, "common" names are highly varied and may have more to do with what name an importer or pet store slaps on the invoice or cage rather than the name being one that has become associated with a species or subspecies through long-term common usage.

Leiolepis are in the same subfamily (Leiolepinae) as the Uromastyx (dab; spiny-tailed) lizards.

The lizards of the genus of the Agamidae are native to a range that extends from Southern China through Indo-China to Sumatra.

There are several species found in relatively dry, open habitats.

  • L. belliana belliana. Butterfly agama; Smooth-scaled ground agama; Smooth-scaled agama. Several subspecies. Gray to olive dorsally, yellow to red with black stripes on sides. Thailand, Burma, Laos (?), Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia (Sumatra, Pulau Bangka).
  • L. b. rubritaeniata. Sand lizard. Thailand.
  • L. boehmei. Thailand. Parthenogenic.
  • L. guentherpetersi. Vietnam. Parthenogenic.
  • L. guttata. Vietnam, Cochin China.
  • L. peguensis. Burma.
  • L. reevesii. China (Macao, Guangdong, Hainan, Guangxi), Vietnam.
  • L. triploida. Thailand, Malaysia.

Personal Characteristics
To 50 cm (20"). Slightly flattened dorso-ventrally. Rounded head, long tail, with caudal scales slightly keeled. Dorsal scales are small, granular. No crest or gular pouch, but has a wide gular fold. Males have femoral pores.

Ground-dwellers, they often dig deep burrows.

Primarily insectivores, they sometimes eat plant matter.

Strictly monogamous, oviparous. One species is parthenogenic.

Captive Environment
Need a dry terrarium with deep substrate (lowest layer should be slightly damp). Daytime temperatures 30-35 C / 86-95 F, nights about 10 degrees lower. Requires lots of drinking water.


Obst, F. et al. Completely Illustrated Atlas of Reptiles and Amphibians. TFH Publ, 1988.

Slavens, Frank & Katie. Lizard Species Accounts.

TIGR Reptile Database

World Conservation Monitoring Center

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