29 May 2015

Roughtail Rock Agama & Schmidt's Fringed-toed Lizard near Tabuk – Records by Viv Wilson

The Roughtail Rock Agama Laudakia stellio is also known as a Hardim or Star Lizard and is a species of agamid lizard found in Greece, Central Macedonia, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, northern Saudi Arabia, Cyprus, Jordan and Israel. Like many agamas it can change colour to express its moods. The name ‘stellion’ comes from Latin stellio, stēlio which referred to any spotted lizard, from stella star. It has a flat triangular head and a flat short body with long legs. It hibernates during winter. Its diet consists of mainly insects and plants. They are a rock-dwelling species of lizards inhabiting dry areas and even though it is very cautious and hides as soon as it perceives danger, during the mating season the males defend their territory by putting themselves in prominent positions, displaying their intentions by a characteristic nodding movement of the head. It is a large (up to 30 centimetres), robust lizard with a flattened, spiny body, a wide, triangular head, long legs and a long tail. The neck is particularly spiny, and rows of spines run across the body, flanks and tail and is capable of quite rapid colour changes, typically becoming lighter when warm and darker when cold. Dominant male starred agamas are particularly brightly coloured, often showing reddish-brown, turquoise and tan markings. They are generally light or dark brown to grey or charcoal-coloured, with a series of yellowish, diamond-shaped markings along the back. The throat may be flecked with dark spots, and the tail often has conspicuous bars. However, it is quite variable in appearance across its range, with individuals from some areas having pale yellow or red heads and unspotted throats. They have sharp claws that help it to climb on rocks, walls, buildings and trees.
Rough tail Rock Agama
Rough tail Rock Agama
Schmidt's Fringed-toed Lizard
Schmidt's Fringed-toed Lizard

Schmidt's Fringed-toed Lizard Acanthodactylus schmidti is one of the most abundant species in the genus Acanthodactylus found in Saudi Arabia and occupies sandy plains, dunes and sabkhas (salt flats), particularly in areas of scrubby vegetation. It was named after Karl Patterson Schmidt, with a type locality of Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and it can be distinguished by the exceptionally long fourth toe found on each of its rear feet. As its name suggests it has 'fringes' of elongated scales along the sides of each toe, which are thought to provide better traction on loose sand. It has a light brown or coffee coloured back that is richly speckled with oval-shaped, pale or white spots and can grow to 18 centimetres in length. They have a cylindrical body with smooth, rectangular scales on the belly which are arranged in well-defined rows and scales on the head which are larger than those on the rest of the body. Little is known about the biology of the species but it is thought that its main prey is ants and when prey is located they instantly go rigid, suddenly quiver thier tail and strike. It is a diurnal species which digs burrows in the sand among the roots of vegetation and is found throughout the Arabian Peninsula including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, south-east Iraq and south-west Iran.

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