Short-legged Seps


Family: Gerrhosauridae

Scientific name: Tetradactylus seps (Linnaeus, 1758)

Size: 13-18cm

Diet: Mainly bees and grasshoppers

Description: Possesses a dark bronze head, body and tail with slightly fainter flanks. The belly is olive to bluish grey with irregular bands on the neck. There are whitish spots on the lip and the lower eyelids are scaly. The tail is twice the length of the body and the limbs are vastly reduced but still fully formed

Number of young: 2-3 oval shaped eggs once a year

Conservation status: Least concern

Distribution: Endemic to Southern Africa. Found in Eastern and Western cape from Cederberg through Cape Fold mountains and Amatola mountains. Also found in the Drakensburg, in Kwazulu Natal

Habitat: Found mainly in montane grassy plateaus and coastal forests. The species is particularly fond of moist conditions such as in damp and rotting logs at the base’s of mountains or next to water bodies. Has also been found in dense coastal and mountain fynbos


Additional information:

Regardless of the fact that short-legged seps have a tail twice the length of their body, the species is still considered to have short tails compared to other members in the Tetradactylus genus. The short legged seps also has well developed limbs, a characteristic that is not shared by the other four species in the genus (Alexander & Marais 2007).

Short-legged seps are active foragers that are highly dependent on their tails to help them propel themselves towards their prey when the moment arises. Although important, the seps can still shed its tail when faced with predators but once shed, tail regeneration is rapid (Alexander & Marais 2007).

Short-legged seps exist in two allopatric populations, one population exists in the Kwazulu Natal midlands and the other population occurs in the Eastern and Western Cape. Given the large expanse of space between both populations, a study has been undertaken by Bates, M. F to determine whether the Kwazulu Natal population of short legged seps can be made into a new viable sub-species called Tetradactylus laevicauda (Bates et al. 2014).  


Alexander, G. & Marais, J. 2007. A Guide to the Reptiles of Southern Africa. Cape Town. STRUIK Nature.

Branch, B. 1998. Field Guide to Snakes and other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Cape Town. STRUIK.

Branch, B. 2016. Snakes and other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Cape Town. STRUIK Nature.

Bates, M.F., Branch, W.R., Bauer, A.M., Burger, M., Marais, J., Alexander, G.J. & de Villiers, M.S. (eds). 2014. (CD set). Atlas and Red List of the Reptiles of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Suricata 1. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria.

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