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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







Reeves' Butterfly Lizard

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

Leiolepis reevesii (Reeves' Butterfly Lizard) occurs in hot, open habitats with loose, sandy soil in parts of coastal Vietnam and southern China, extreme southern Laos, western and central Cambodia and eastern Thailand; this range is based on the map in Grismer et al (2014).

Males of this strongly diurnal, burrowing lizard have a broad, orange stripe running along the flanks (with or without vertical black barring towards the front of this stripe); this is prominently displayed towards females as an attractant, and to other males as a warning sign. The rib cage can be expanded to stretch the loose skin on the flanks, and thus increase the apparent width of the stripes.

The pale brownish dorsal surface of this species is patterned with rows of pale spots; there is an absence of pale stripes which occur in other species. The upper surfaces of the hind limbs bear numerous smaller pale spots, and there are tiny pale spots on top of the tail.

The diet of Leiolepis reevesii comprises invertebrates and vegetation (Das, 2010). Its burrows can reach to at least 80 cm underground.

To the west this species is replaced by Leiolepis belliana (Common Butterfly Lizard); the apparent absence of any overlap in the range of these 2 lizards might suggest that the two are in fact the same species (both also exhibit intraspecific variation in colour and patterning). However Grismer et al (2014) found little hybridisation at the line of contact in Cambodia between the two lizards, which strongly implies that Leiolepis belliana is indeed a separate species.

Figs 1 to 3 : Probable male example (estimated total length of 30 cm), with a broad, plain orange stripe on each flank. It was encountered in an area of degraded and frequently disturbed land amongst trees, fallen branches and bushes near dry, deciduous, dipterocarp forest at Srepok Wildlife Sanctuary, Mondulkiri Province, Cambodia. It appeared to be searching for insects, possibly ants.   Photos and field notes thanks to Derek Clark.

References : H5

Grismer, Jesse L.; Aaron M. Bauer, L. Lee Grismer, Kumthorn Thirakhupt, Anchelee Aowphol, Jamie R. Oaks, Perry L. Wood Jr, Chan Kin Onn, Neang Thy, Micheal Cota and Todd Jackman. (2014). Multiple origins of parthenogenesis, and a revised species phylogeny for the Southeast Asian butterfly lizards, Leiolepis. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 113 (4): 10801093


Fig 1
ゥ  Derek Clark
Fig 2
ゥ  Derek Clark
Fig 3
ゥ  Derek Clark