Saturday, January 31, 2009

Agama Confusion

I'm moving on "unknown territory" today because I'm no expert on reptiles; yet I have some photos I'd like to share of what I used to simply classify as geckos but learned in the mean time are Agamas.

Reptiles are cold-blooded vertebrates and to become "active" they first have to regulate their body temperature - which usually means that they bask in the sun. Lizards are the largest group (suborder) of living reptiles, and there are more than 200 lizard species indigenous to South Africa. Agamas is genus of lizards (rock agama - photo above) whilst snakes evolved from lizards and are the most "modern" form of reptiles.

Rock agama (right) have short and triangular heads. The body is covered in small scales with a cluster of spines. The eyes are large and bulging (similar as a chameleon) with round pupils. The head is often blue, although that's not the case in the photos I present today.

The first four photos of rock agama were taken at Twyfelfontein in Namibia where I "discovered" the greatest diversity of this lizard genus.

Did you know that there are NO poisonous lizards in southern Africa? (In contrast to 2 species of poisonous lizards in North & South America).

The rock agama's diet consists mainly of ants and termites. Rock agama are well-known because their range is extensive. Although agamas (= lizards) aren't poisonous, a rock agama can inflict a painful bite, which draws blood - it has 2 fang-like teeth in its upper jaw. Also similar to the chameleon is the rock agama's ability to change its body colour.

In South Africa ALL reptiles are protected by law and without a permit it's illegal to keep any specimen in captivity.

Another "type" of rock agama (left), which I "found" on Table Mountain (Cape Town). The difference between an agama, gecko & skink is: agama have an "armoury" of scales, a gecko (the tiniest of the 3) is soft skinned and a skink has smooth and shiny scales.

This is another kind of rock agama (right), which I photographed on Table Mountain - which reminds me of a dragon!? (especially from the way it "poses").

This rock agama (left) also "originates" from Table Mountain.

And now for "comparison's sake" - a tree agama (right). Tree agamas are large and the head only turns blue when the agama is fully grown. A tree agama lays its eggs in a hole in the ground (= most female reptiles are egg-laying).

Did you know that a gecko's tail, if "lost", can re-grow, but an agama's tail can't!?

The diet of a tree agama (left = a close-up photo of the same agama above) consists of caterpillars, grasshoppers + beetles (= flying insects).

Last but not least - a ground agama (left). Like the other agama species, it has a broad, toad-like head and a long, thin tail. The ground agama is "bulky and less spritely" and its armoury of scales is very spiny.

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