19 July 2013

Desert (Pale) Agama & Blandford’s Agama from Zulfi – Records by Mansur Al Fahad

Mansur Al Fahad, a birdwatcher and photographer from the Riyadh area, has very kindly sent me, and allowed me to use, some of his photographs of lizards he took near Zulfi during the second week of June 2013. Zulfi is approximately 260 kilometres northwest of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. These two lizards shown below are agamas with the first one a Desert Agama or Pale Agama and the second a Blandford’s Agama photographed in the middle of the day. I would like to thank Mansur for sending me information on the lizards and for kindly allowing me to use his photos that are reproduced here, the copyright of which remains with Mansur.
Desert or Pale Agama
The Desert Agama Trapelus mutabilis is a small to medium-sized lizard with a rather flattened body and a short, thick head with its key characteristics being the small spines located around the openings of its ears. It has long hind limbs, long digits with quite large claws, and a fairly stout, cylindrical tail which is only slightly longer than the body. They are usually grey-brown to sandy grey in colour, with four to five brown stripes running along their backs and have a tail that is horizontally striped with brown or dark grey. In the breeding season, the male desert agama develops a violet-blue throat and flanks or a blue to light grey head while in the female the head becomes orange. The Desert Agama inhabits deserts and semi-deserts, in areas with very little rainfall, typically inhabiting areas of stone plains, which have a covering of sparse vegetation and lots of gravel. It is widespread across northern Africa, occurring from Western Sahara, Mauritania and Morocco east to Egypt and Sudan. The subspecies T. m. pallidus Pale Agama occurs in the north central region of Saudi Arabia to Jordan, west Iraq, Israel and the Sinai. The taxonomy of the desert agama has been much debated with three subspecies often recognised. Of these Trapelus mutabilis pallidus has often been considered to be a separate species, the Pale Agama Trapelus pallidus. This form differs in having more uniformly sized, smooth scales on the back, and a blue head rather than a blue throat and flanks in breeding males. However, recent genetic and morphological studies have supported the classification of the Pale Agama as a subspecies of the Desert Agama.
Blandford's Agama
Blandford’s Agama Trapelus ruderatus ranges from northeastern Jordan and southern Syria, through northern and eastern Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and southern and central Iran as far south as Shiraz (Rastegar-Pouyani 2000). The species occurs from close to sea level to around 1,000 metres above sea level. It can be moderately common in suitable habitat. This ground-dwelling species is associated with low shrubs (Nitraria) on the fringe of sandy dunes in arid areas and in sandy desert areas. It can sometimes be found perching on bushes but is not found in modified areas. Blanford's Agama is similar to Yellow-spotted Agama but has lines on its back which are missing on Yellow-spotted Agama.