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Pachydactylus serval WERNER 1910

The original article is published in SAURIA, Berlin.


Distribution and biotope

Pachydactylus serval is endemic to Namibia. Visser (1984) notes, that this species spreads southwards to the towns of Bethanien and Aus. Griffin (2003) recorded it for central-Namibia from Mariental to Keetmanshoop. However, the core distribution area of P. serval is even larger: in the north up Mariental, southwards to Orange River. Most sightings come from a height of 1500m above sea level, the Tsaris Mountains and the Schwarzrand south of the Huib-Plateau, as well as the areas surrounding Fish River Canyon. The eastern border of the distribution area is the area around Daweb-Süd in the Karas Mountains, the western is Keetmanshoop, whereas in the south-west several recordings from north of Rosh Pinah exist. In the south of the habitat, at Orange River, the geckos live sympatric with P. purcelli, P. montanus and a not yet describes species (Bauer, Lamb & Branch 2006). 

Pachydactylus serval
Natural habitat of Pachydactylus serval in the Kokerboom Forest at Keetmanshoop.
© M
. Barts.


Pachydactylus serval is a typical nocturnal, very agile crevice inhabitant, which lives under loose rocks and in narrow cracks, but also under small rocks at the batter, at parched rivers and in rocky plains, if appropriate hiding places are available. Males live in their own territories, which they will defend against other males. P. serval is able to produce sounds. It’s a short, squeaking sequence, which lasts for 1-2 seconds. Unprovoked sounds of juveniles couldn’t be observed, but a 4 months old juvenile squeaked when caught from the tank.

Pachydactylus serval
Adult male with regenerated tail in the wild. © M. Barts.

Pachydactylus serval
Pachydactylus serval von den Bukkaros Mountain, Namibia. © J. Marais.

Pachydactylus serval, Farm Spitskoppe, 40 km east of Keetmanshoop, Namibia © A. Meyer


Captivity and breeding
Due to its flexibility, P. serval doesn’t have special requirements towards its tank. Tanks from 20 x 20 x 30 cm to 40 x 40 x 40 cm (l x d x h) are sufficient for a pair. If kept in groups of one male and several females, the edge length should be increased by 5cm per further animal.

I choose a strong structure structure of the tanks and offer many hiding places. The interior should imitate a rocky habitat. Walls of the tank were covered with limestone, in order to generate a bigger surface for the geckos.

While installing the hiding places, one should orientate toward the micro climate in the natural habitat. In this case, you need to install cold and wet, as well as warm and dry hiding places. These should be tight and dark in order to reduce stress. Therefore, stones, cork, bamboo and small bowls are sufficient. As more animals you keep, as more hiding places you’ll need.  


Pachydactylus serval
Female wirth partially detached tail in the wild. © M. Barts.


I prefer several vertical limestone plates. The resulting cracks are accepted as hiding places. A living plant in the tank doesn’t only look nice, but also has a positive effect on the climate. The usual plants like sansevieria can be recommended. Not too fine sand can be used as substrate and should be 1-2cm high. The tank is misted a minimum of 2 times a week, to enable the geckos to drink and to generate wet hiding places. As they are nocturnal, P. serval doesn’t have any special requirements toward lighting, beside the generation of a day and night rhythm and sufficient temperatures. Fluorescent tubes can be used as well as normal bulbs. UV doesn’t need to be provided.

Lighting should be provided 12h a day. During daytime, temperatures should be between 25 and 32°C with an additional hotspot at 40°C. Although nocturnal, the geckos will appear at the hotspot during daytime. Therefore, a hiding place is installed under the hotspot, to provide a warmer but still covered place. Constant temperatures in the tank should be avoided. Different temperature zones allow each individual to choose a temperature it currently needs. The geckos feed on the usual invertebrates of appropriate size, like crickets, spiders, bugs, flies and roaches. Gut-loading is used to enhance the insects quality, but all insects are dusted with vitamins and minerals anyway. Adults get 10-15 crickets (or similar) every 3-4days, while the juveniles are fed every 2-3 days.

P. serval doesn’t require a cool period. However, a short period of 4-6 weeks with shortened lighting and lower temperatures of 18-24°C should be provided, where the animals need less food. After this short period, temperatures and lighting are used as described above. 

Pachydactylus serval is easy to keep, if tank, temperatures and diet are appropriate. I prefer to house them as pairs. After the described period of lower temperatures, the adults need bigger amounts of food. The male will show an increased interest in the female. It’ll try to stimulate the female by biting in its neck and flanks. If the female isn’t ready to mate, it’ll flee and hide. One of the reasons why a lot of hiding places should be provided.

Othwerwise, the female will remain calm, lift ist tail and mating, which might take up to half an hour,  will take place. Sperm is stored and enables the female to produce 2-6 fertilised clutches. Pregnant females will flee if approached by the male. Other than P. tigrinus and P. tsodiloensis (Barts 2005, Barts, Boone & Hulbert 2001), males of P. serval aren’t as brash and don’t need to be housed seperately. Pregnant females are easy to recognise, as the egss are vissible through the abdomen and even through the back. 18-24 days 2 eggs are laid in the loose sand. The females burrow small holes of 1-2cm depth in the sand. 26-28°C and dry substrate seem to be ideal.

In nature, egg findings are recorded near Bitterfontein in August and near Kharkams in May.  Bauer, Lamb & Branch (l.c.) report that eggs were found in crevices and under stones, which I also experienced during my journeys. In a terrarium, the eggs are always burrowed under loose sand.

The oval, hard-shelled  eggs measure 8.2-11.04 x 6.1-8.14 mm (average of 9.24 x 7.27 mm, n=40) and weigh 0.27-0.9 g (average of 0.37, n=8). After the eggs are laid, the hole is closed carefully.

Pachydactylus serval
Clutch with scale.© M. Barts.


The clutches were removed from the tank and incubated at 27-30°C. The eggs hatched after 45-96 day (average of 60, n=18). The hatchlings had a SVL of 18.3-19.5 mm (average of 19.06mm, n=9) and a tail length of 16.1-18.5mm (average of 17.83mm, n=9)


Pachydactylus serval

Pachydactylus serval
Newly hatched juveniles of Pachydactylus serval. © M. Barts.


Visser (1984) reported juveniles and eggs in January in the Tiras Mountains. These eggs measured 9.4-9.6 x 7.0-7.3mm and the juveniles had a SVl of 19.2-22.6 mm and a tail length of 15.0-19.4mm. Depending of feeding and high temperatures, female P. serval are able to produce clutches avery 2-34 weeks. At the end of autumn, temperatures should be decreased to stop production of eggs. Stored sperm can produce fertilised eggs in the next season, when temperatures are up again. Therefore the males should be introduced later. 

The hatchlings are raised in small tanks of 15 x 15 x 20cm. Interior, lighting and temperatures is equal to the set-up of the adults. The rasing of different Pachydactylus species in one tank is possible. Juveniles are fed every 2-3 days using invertebrates of appropriate size. Lime can be provided through grit or tablets, which will be consumed actively. No particular problems are known.

Pachydactylus serval
Semiadult juvenile of about 5 months in a terrarium. © M. Barts.

Early mating isn’t recommended, as it might result in egg binding and the death of the female. I only mate females with 1.5-2 years of age. The lifespan of this species can be considered as 8-9 years.


Since the revision of the weberi/serval complex, Pachydactylus serval a species without subspecies. The former valid subspecies purcelli BOULENGER, 1910, was elevated into species rank. P. serval onscepeensis HEWITT, 1935 is now a synonym für P. montanus (Bauer, Lamb & Branch 2006).



Originalbeschreibung / Original description  

WERNER, F. (1910): Zoologische und Anthropolische Ergebnisse einer Forschungsreise im westlichen und zentralen Südafrika, 4. — In Schultze - Denkschr. Med. Natl. Ges., Jena, 1910: 313 — Terra typica: Chamis, Groß-Namaland, August, 1905.

Kopf schmal, eiförmig. Schnauze 1¾ mal so lang wie der Augendurchmesser, Ohröffnung sehr schief elliptisch. Körper niedergedrückt, Zehen kurz, in der Länge wenig voneinander verschieden, unterseits mit 6 Lamellen unter dem verbreiteten Teil. Oberseite mit gleichartigen Körnerschuppen, die auf der Schnauze deutlich, aber nicht mehrmals größer sind als auf dem Hinterkopfe. Rostrale wenig breiter als hoch, Supranasalia 7. Nasorostralia in Kontakt.

Oberseite dunkel-graubraun mit unregelmäßig angeordneten dunklen Flecken. Unterseite grau.

Im Magen Reste von Libellen (Agrioniden), eines Käfers und vielen Termiten.

Länge 38 + 31 mm (Schwanz von der Basis an regeneriert).

Ein zweites Schwanzloses Exemplar stimmt mit dem beschriebenen gut überein.

Diese Art gehört in die Verwandschaft des P.ocellatus, unterscheidet sich aber durch die längere Schnauze, die elliptische Ohröffnung, die aneinanderstoßenden Subranasalia (Nasorostralia), und die Färbung von dieser Art, die kleineren Schuppen auf der Schnauze und die größere Zahl von Subralabialen, sowie durch die Zeichnung von P. punctatus, schließlich durch die längere Schnauze, die größere Zahl von Subdigitallamellen und ebenfals durch die Zeichnung von P. mariquensis.