Found in most of sub-Saharan Africa (Harris 1964).
Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native )
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: Native to East Africa. Introduced and established in several counties in Florida (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999, Enge et al. 2004, Meshaka et al. 2004).
Distribution: Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Mali, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, W/C/N Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Angola. Introduced to Madagascar and Comoro Island. Introduced to the Cape Verde Islands (VASCONCELOS et al. 2009). agama: C Africa; e.g. Gabon (GOSSMANN 2002) africana: Liberia.
Type locality: Liberia. boensis: Guinea-Bissau.
Type locality: Madina Boé, Portugese Guinea. dodomae: Tanzania.
Type locality: Gwao’s, Dodoma, Ugogo, Tanganyika Territory. mucosoensis: Angola.
Type locality: Mucoso bei Dondo, Angola. savattieri: C Africa.
Type locality: Gambie, Casamence, Mélacorée, Albréda (The Gambia), Bathurst (=Banjul, The Gambia). usambarae: Usambara Mountains, Tanzania.
Type locality: Soni, Usambara Mountains, Tanzania.
Type locality: „Amerika"; corrected to “Kamerun” (MERTENS 1938: 37). Neotype from Mokolo, Margui-Wandala Province, northern Cameroon.
Type locality: “Chinchoxo, Cabinda, Angola, 05°06’S, 12°06’E [Agama colonorum var. congica].
Type locality: “Ada Foah, Accra [Ghana] and Cameruns” [Agama picticauda]
The agama lizard is characterized by its whitish underside, buff brown back limbs and tail with a slightly lighter stripe down the middle and six to seven dark patches to the side of this stripe. There is some sexual dimorphism. The subordinate males, females, and adolescents possess an olive green head. A blue body and yellow tail and head characterize the dominant male. A. agama has a large head separated from the body, a long tail, well-developed external ear openings and eyelids. This lizard also has acrodont, heterodont teeth. The lizard possesses both caniniform incisors for grasping and molariform cheekteeth for crushing. The maximum size for male lizards is twenty-five centimeters and female lizards is twenty centimeters (Harris 1964).
Catalog Number: USNM 6307
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Amphibians & Reptiles
Locality: No Locality Data
- Holotype: Girard, C. 1858. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia. 9: 199.
Rainbow lizards can occupy urban, suburban and wild areas that supply enough vegetation for reproduction and insects for food.
Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest ; mountains
Habitat and Ecology
Habitat Type: Terrestrial
Comments: Habitat in Florida consts of rock piles, buildings , and trees in disturbed areas; it is not known to occupy natural areas (Meshaka et al. 2004).
Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Agama agama are primarily insectivores, however A. agama have been known to eat small mammals, small reptiles, and vegetation such as flowers, grasses, and fruits. Their diet consists of mainly ants, grasshoppers, beetles, and termites (Harris 1964). A. agama is a sit and wait predator (Crews et al., 1983). Hunting by vision, it sits in vegetation, under a rock outcropping, or in the shade and waits until an insect or small mammal walks by and then will chase the prey. They catch their prey by using a tongue with a tip covered by mucous glands; this aids the lizard in holding onto small prey such as ants and termites.
Comments: Diet consist primarily of invertebrates, but small vertebrates, fruits, and other plant material may also be consumed (Meshaka et al. 2004).
Life History and Behavior
Females reach sexual maturity at age fourteen to eighteen months, males at two years. A. agama reproduces during the wet season although they are capable of reproducing nearly year round in areas of consistant rainfall(Porter et al. 1983). The male will approach the female from behind and head bob to her. If she accepts then she will arch her back with her tail and head raised. The male walks to her side and grasps her neck and puts his leg on the female's back, the pair swivel 90 degrees in order to bring their cloacas together and thrusts his tail onto her cloaca inserting his right or left hemipenes (depending on side location). This mating ritual usually lasts one to two minutes when the female will scurry away and the male also after several minutes (Harris 1964).
The female lays her eggs in a hole she digs with her snout and claws. The hole is five centimeters deep and is found in sandy, wet, damp soil that is exposed to sunlight nearly all day and covered by herbage or grasses. The eggs are usually laid in clutches ranging from five to seven ellipsoidal eggs. A. agama is a thermoregulated embryo species resulting in all males at twenty-nine degrees Celsius and all females at twenty-six to twenty-seven degrees Celsius (Crews et al. 1983). The eggs will hatch within eight to ten weeks. Hatchlings will be between 3.7 and 3.8 centimeters snoutvent plus their 7.5-centimeter tail. They will almost immediately start eating rocks, sand, plants, and insects. The adolescent will remain solitary for the first two months and by four months live in a gregarious group with a dominant male (cock), several females and some subordinate adolescent males (sub-males). The dominant male has mating distinction within his territory. If a sub-male or intruder tries to mate with his females then there is a challenge or fight. To gain territory males must establish a new territory with no cocks or dispose of the current cock (Harris 1964).
Clutch size usually 5-7; deposits eggs in holes dug in moist, sandy soil exposed to sunlight; eggs hatch in 8-10 weeks (Meshaka et al. 2004).
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Agama agama
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 4
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: no special status
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Its size varies from 13 to 30 cm (5.1 to 11.8 in) in total length. It can often be seen in the heat of the day. In the breeding season, the males develop dramatically colorful markings, the head and neck and tail turning bright orange, and the body dark blue. Outside of the breeding season, the male is a plain brown. The females and juveniles are always more cryptically marked. This lizard can be found climbing rocks and walls. Its primary source of food is insects.
The males are territorial, claiming small to medium-sized patches of land which they defend against other mature males. Juveniles and females reside within the territories unchallenged. The mature males become agitated when confronting each other, nodding vigorously, arching, skipping sideways, and clashing tails. The loser is chased out of the territory. During mating season, males do "push-ups" to attract females.
The species name was formerly applied to a paraphyletic collection of taxa, and mitochondrial DNA analysis of various populations indicates they represent separate species. Consequently, three former subspecies A. a. africana, A. a. boensis, and A. a. mucosoensis are now considered separate species, and A. a. savattieri is considered synonymous with A. africana.
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- Burton, Maurice and Robert Burton. (2002). International Wildlife Encyclopedia, 3rd edition. New York: Marshall Cavendish Corp. p.30.
- Leaché, A.D. et al. (2009). Phylogeny of the genus Agama based on mitochondrial DNA sequence data. Bonner zoologische Beiträge 56(4) 273-78.
- Mediannikov, O., Trape, S. and Trape, J-F. (2012). A Molecular Study of the Genus Agama (Squamata: Agamidae) in West Africa, with Description of Two New Species and a Review of the Taxonomy, Geographic Distribution, and Ecology of Currently Recognized Species. Russian Journal of Herpetology 19(2).
- Agama, The Reptile Database