05 July 2012

Yellow-spotted Agama (Trapelus flavimaculatus) - Sabkhat Al Fasl

The Yellow-spotted Agama Trapelus flavimaculatus is a common species of lizard found in arid regions of the Middle East from Egypt: North of the Eastern Desert & Northern Sinai to the Arabian Peninsula including Saudi Arabia. They are readily distinguished from the Sinai agama Pseudotrapelus sinaitus by their heavier build, rougher scales and the presence of a gular sac which is darkened and inflated as a threat display. The ear opening is smaller and its dorsal margin is partially covered by pointed scales. In the summer these lizards often sit atop Acacia trees or prominent rocks as a territorial display and to regulate their temperature. They are quite aggressive with a mainly carnivorous diet of small insects.

This agama was seen at Sabkhat Al Fasl last weekend where they are one of the commonest reptiles and are occasionally sighted sunbathing on rocks, open patches of sand or in Acacia tree tops. Their skin colour varies from reddish-brown to olive‐green, and is covered in a pattern of heavy yellowish-white spots. Their tails are normally pale yellow; however, male Yellow-spotted Agamas have the ability to go from this drab coloration to something much more vivid and spectacular. When threatened, or when challenged by a competing male, the male Yellow-spotted Agama unfolds a flap of skin (called a gular sac) under his neck, opens his mouth wide and transforms. The dull reddish-brownish-green skin turns vivid blue, and the pale yellow tail glows brilliant flaming orange. Sometimes a male Agama will only change partially turning just the underside of his head blue, for instance. The colour change happens in seconds and fades just as quickly.

Agama lizards are also known as ‘chisel-teeth’ lizards. Their teeth are different than those of other lizards because they are firmly attached to the lizards’ jawbones, whereas most other types of lizard have teeth that are set loosely in their gums. Agamas’ teeth have a distinct cutting edge like a chisel, which is where the name ‘chisel-teeth’ comes from. Interestingly, not all agama lizards have the same diet, despite having the same unusual teeth. It Is thought that their chisel teeth are multi-purpose, able to cut up insects or tear off plant matter into pieces that are easy to swallow, since lizards, like most reptiles, do not chew their food before swallowing.