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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
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Common Butterfly Lizard

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4

Fig 5


Species : Leiolepis belliana
Size (snout to vent) : 15 cm
Size (total length) : Up to at least 40 cm

Butterfly Lizards (family Leiolepididae) are a small group of distinctive lizards comprising nine species. 

The Common Butterfly Lizard breeds by normal sexual reproduction, however four species of butterfly lizard are parthenogenic (i.e. there is only a single sex which reproduces by cloning) : the Malayan Butterfly Lizard is one such example.

Butterfly Lizards are endemic to Southeast Asia; they inhabit open areas such as disturbed agricultural land, and sandy coastal habitat.

The Common Butterfly Lizard is characterised by its greenish-grey colour, patterned with yellowish spots and its handsome black and orange markings along the flank. Juveniles are striped and have a reddish tail.

They can be found basking in the sun along sandy, forest trails, and can be locally common on golf courses. If alarmed they will quickly return to their burrows : at night these may be sealed with sand, probably as a defensive measure against nocturnal snakes.

The Common Butterfly Lizard occurs in Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra. It has not been found in Singapore.

Fig 1 : A large adult scans its territory from the rim of its burrow.

Fig 2 : A smaller adult emerges from its burrow and patrols its territory.

Fig 3 : The belly is attractively mottled in orange and blue.

(Figs 1 to 3 from Langkawi, Peninsular Malaysia),

Fig 4 : Example from back-beach, sandy habitat at Tanjong Jara, Terengganu, Peninsular Malaysia.

Fig 5 : Specimen from Lanjut, on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

References : H1, H11