Agama are colorful lizards with a peaceful disposition. They spend most of the day basking in the hot African sun. They get along well with people, therefore they are common as pets – although it is not so easy to care for agamas, they look very bright and exotic, besides, this is still not a crocodile, and they need little food.

View origin and description

Photo: Agama

Photo : Agama

At the end of the Devonian period, the first terrestrial vertebrates appeared – they used to be called stegocephals, now they are considered a heterogeneous group, united under the general name of labyrinthodonts. These animals lived near water bodies and multiplied in the water. Gradually, reptiles began to develop from them, capable of living at a distance from water – this required the restructuring of many systems in the body. The body of these animals gradually acquired protection from desiccation, they began to move better on land, learned to breed not in water and breathe with the help of lungs.

Video: Agama

By the beginning of the Carboniferous period, a transitional link appeared – Seimuriamorphs, which already possessed many signs of reptiles. Gradually, new forms appeared, capable of spreading over ever larger spaces, the limbs lengthened, the skeleton and muscles were rebuilt. Kotilosaurs appeared, then diapsids descended from them, giving rise to many different creatures. It was from them that scaly ones, which include agamas, originated. Their isolation happened by the end of the Permian period, and many species formed in the Cretaceous.

By the end of it, it was from lizards that snakes arose. The appearance of a branch, which later led to the agamas, also belongs to the same time. Although this genus itself cannot be called ancient – although the antiquity of origin is involuntarily associated with all reptiles, in fact, most of the modern species appeared relatively recently – by the standards of paleontology. The genus of agama lizards from the Agamidae family was described in 1802 by F-M. Doden, Latin name Agama, a species of common agama described in 1758 by Carl Linnaeus, the name Agama agama.

Appearance and features

 Photo: What an agama looks like

Photo: What the agama looks like

The length of the body, together with the tail, in adult males can vary significantly – ranging from 15 to 40 cm. Females are on average 6-10 cm smaller. Lizards have a short head and a strong body, the tail is long. The paws of the agama end in large claws relative to the size of the body. Sexual dimorphism is expressed not only by the difference in size: the color also varies greatly. Males in the mating season have a body of a dark blue hue with a metallic sheen, and the head can be white, yellow, orange or bright red.

There is a noticeable white stripe on the back. The tail is also bright, at the base it is the same color as the body, and towards the end it gradually becomes a rich red color. But all this is only in the mating season. The rest of the time, the color of males is similar to that of females: the body is brown, and sometimes olive – it depends on the environment, the lizard tries to stand out less.

An interesting fact: The sex of an ordinary agama depends on the temperature at which the eggs developed: if it was no more than 27 ° C, then most of the cubs will be females, and if the temperature was mostly kept above this mark, then they will turn out to be males. Because of this, there is often a significant imbalance in the population. It is also curious that in other species of agama, everything can be the opposite, and in warmer weather, predominantly females are born.

Where does the agama live?

Photo: Agama lizard

Photo: Agama lizard

Representatives of the Agama family can be found in:

  • Africa;
  • Asia;
  • Australia;
  • Europe.

They are able to live in tropical to temperate climates and adapt to a wide variety of environmental conditions, and therefore are not found only in cold areas, where reptiles cannot live at all because of their cold blood. You can find agamas in deserts, steppes, forests, mountains, along the coasts of reservoirs. Some of them are also common in Russia, for example, steppe agamas, Caucasian agamas, motley roundheads and others. These lizards have adapted well to rather cool weather and inhabit the territory of northern Eurasia in large numbers.

But the common agama species is not so widespread. They can be found only on one continent – Africa, and only south of the Sahara desert, but at the same time north of the Tropic of Capricorn. In addition to continental lands, these lizards also live on nearby islands – Madagascar, Comoros and Cape Verde. Initially, agamas were not found on these islands, but people brought them there, and they successfully acclimatized – the conditions there differ little from continental ones, and the agamas have even fewer enemies. They live mainly in savannahs and steppes, as well as among the sand of the sea coast, if bushes, trees and rocks can be found nearby.

On the latter they can quickly and deftly climb, they are also able to climb a sheer wall. The latter comes in handy not so rarely: agamas tend to move closer to people. They can live right in settlements or in close proximity to them. In particular, there are many of them in West Africa, where in every settlement you can see these lizards sitting right on the walls and roofs of houses and basking in the sun. It is because of this feature that at a time when the ranges of most other animals are shrinking, and their numbers are falling due to the development of wild lands by people, the agama only flourishes more and more. Together with man, it populates new lands, previously occupied by mighty forests, and spreads more and more.

In captivity, the agama should be kept in a large terrarium: a minimum of 120 cm in length and 40 in width and height, more is better. It is imperative that the air inside is dry and well ventilated; gravel or sand is placed inside. Agamas also need a lot of light, including ultraviolet – most of the year natural will not be enough. Inside the terrarium there should be a cool and hot zone, in the first place shelters and water for drinking, and in the second stones on which the lizard will lie and bask. Also in the terrarium there must be objects on which she will climb, and living plants. You can put several lizards in the terrarium, but the male must be alone.

Now you know how to keep an agama at home. Let's see what to feed the lizard.

What does the agama eat?

Photo: Bearded Agama

Photo: Bearded Agama

The Agama menu includes:

  • insects;
  • small vertebrates;
  • fruits;
  • flowers.

Insects are their main prey. Agamas are too small to catch larger animals, and they rarely succeed, and they need quite a lot of insects, so they are on their guard for most of the day, waiting for something tasty to fly by. Fangs help them in holding prey, and the tongue of the agamas secretes a sticky secret – thanks to it, they can also eat small insects such as termites or ants, simply by running their tongue over the area. Sometimes they catch small vertebrates, including other reptiles. Such a diet is quite nutritious, but you need to diversify it with vegetation – rarely, but the agamas also turn to it. Plants contain some essential vitamins that lizards cannot get from living creatures, and they also improve digestion. To a greater extent, plant nutrition is typical for young lizards, but their diet also consists largely of animal food, and plant foods account for no more than a fifth.

When keeping a domestic agama, she is fed with flour worms, cockroaches, crickets and other insects. Finely grated fruits are added to this – bananas, pears, apples, or vegetables – cucumbers, cabbage, carrots. At the same time, you should not constantly give the same thing: if the last time it was tomatoes, the next time you should give the lizard lettuce leaves, then carrots, and so on. It is enough to feed her once every few days, after saturation, the remnants of food should be removed so as not to overfeed her. From time to time, you need to add a little mineral water to the drinker so that the agama gets vitamins, and sometimes make special food additives – but you shouldn’t overdo it either, once a month is enough.

Features of character and lifestyle

Photo: Agama in nature

Photo: Agama in nature

Agama activity time falls on the day, because these lizards love the sun. With the first rays of it, they leave their shelters and begin to bask. Sunny days are especially pleasant for them: they get out to an open place, for example, on a rock or the roof of a house, and bask in the sun. During these hours, their color becomes especially bright. And even in the hottest hours, when many other animals prefer to hide from the heat, agamas remain in the very sun: this is the best time for them. But even they can get heat stroke and, in order to avoid it, during these hours they cover their heads with their paws and raise their tail above them – it creates a small shadow. Even in the most relaxing environment, agamas do not forget about hunting, on the contrary, they are especially full of energy and, as soon as they notice an insect flying by, they rush after it. In addition, they are territorial lizards, inclined to protect their possessions, and on an open hill it is convenient not only to bask, but also to inspect the area.

Seeing that another male is nearby, the owner of the territory goes to him. When the dragons meet, they inflate their throat pouches, rise on their hind legs and begin to rotate their heads. Their body becomes more intense in color, the head becomes brown, and white spots appear on the back. If none of the males retreats after an exchange of pleasantries, then a fight begins, the lizards try to bite each other on the head or neck, or even on the tail. The matter can reach serious wounds, but such battles usually do not end in death: the loser leaves the battlefield, and the winner lets him go.

Agamas living in settlements or nearby are accustomed to people and do not react to those passing near them, but if they consider that a person is interested in them, they become shy. At the same time, their movements are very curious: they begin to nod their heads, and the entire front of their body rises and falls along with this. It seems as if the agama is bowing. The closer a person approaches her, the faster she will do it, until she decides that it is time to run. She climbs very deftly and quickly, so she hides in a matter of moments, having found some kind of gap. A domestic agama will lead approximately the same lifestyle as a wild one: bask in the sun or under a lamp most of the day, sometimes climb on simulators that will need to be placed in the terrarium. You can’t let her out on the floor, except perhaps on the hottest days of summer, otherwise she can catch a cold.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Agama

Photo: Agama

Agamas live in small colonies of several dozen individuals. A strict hierarchy is established in them: the lands in the district are divided between the lizards, the strongest get the best places. In the understanding of the Agamas, these are those where there are perfectly located stones or houses on which it is most convenient to take sunbaths. The second factor is the abundance of prey. Even if we take territories located close to each other, there can be clearly more insects on one than on the other – this is mainly due to the plants and the nature of the surrounding landscape. The strongest males get a rich “ownership” and may not spend much time on food, because you can always get enough on it. The weak are forced to constantly look for food for themselves, and at the same time they cannot enter someone else's territory, even if there is too much of it for the owner – after all, having seen the intruder, he will immediately begin to defend his possessions.

Females and males reach puberty at different ages: the first at 14-18 months, and the second closer to the age of two. If there is a pronounced rainy season in the area where the agamas live, then it also becomes the mating season. If not, lizards can mate at any time of the year. Agama requires a lot of moisture to reproduce, and in dry times it is simply impossible. If the female is ready to mate, then she makes special movements with her tail to attract the male. If fertilization has occurred, then after 60-70 days she digs a small hole – a sunny place is chosen for this, and lays 5-7 eggs there, after which she buries the masonry and levels the ground well so that it is more difficult to detect.

It takes up to ten weeks for the eggs to incubate, then the cubs hatch out of them, outwardly already similar to adult lizards, and not so small in size. They can reach 10 cm, but most of the length falls on the tail, the body is usually 3.5-4 cm. Only born dragons should immediately feed on their own, their parents will neither feed nor protect them – even if they live in the same colony , the relationship between them ends immediately after the female lays her eggs and burrows them.

An interesting fact: The position of a male in the social hierarchy can be immediately understood by the brightness of his color – the more saturated he is, the closer the male is to its top.

Natural agama enemies

Photo: Agama looks like

Photo: Agama looks like

Among the main enemies of these lizards:

  • snakes;
  • mongooses;
  • large birds.

For birds, the fact that agamas bask in open areas, and usually on a hill, is extremely convenient, it is easy for them to look out for prey from a height and dive on it. Agama, with all its speed and dexterity, does not always manage to elude the bird, and this is its only hope – it has no chance to fight back. Helps birds to find agamas and their bright coloration – combined with love to lie on a well-observed open spot, this makes the agama one of the most easily accessible prey, so that birds kill them more often than any other animals.

But they also have enemies among other reptiles, primarily snakes. Here, the outcome of the fight may not be so unambiguous, and therefore the snakes tend to sneak up on the lizard unnoticed, make a sharp throw and inflict a bite – the poison can weaken or even paralyze the agama, after which it will be easy to deal with it. But if she notices a snake, she can run away from it – the agama is faster and more agile, or even inflict severe wounds with her claws if the snake is not very large.

She may even be forced to flee from an overly dangerous lizard, and more than that – rarely, but it happens that the agama also feasts on a snake. Mongooses are not averse to eating both the agama and the snake – against them, the dexterity of the agama is not enough. Here, as with birds of prey, she can only run away.

Population and species status

Photo: Agama Lizard

Photo: Agama Lizard

The common dragon is among the species with the least number of threats. This lizard breeds successfully, it is not fished for, moreover, the areas available for its living are not reduced due to human activity, because the agama can live next to people, right in their settlements. Therefore, the range and population of agamas only increase from year to year. There is no harm from these lizards, they do not cause damage, and on the contrary, they devour insects and other small pests. Thanks to this, they get along well with people, and can even feel safer in settlements, because predators are sometimes afraid to approach them. Previously, they were distributed only in Africa, but relatively recently they have bred in nature in Florida – its conditions turned out to be well suited for them, and a population of wild agamas went from the wild pets that were in the wild.

Interesting fact: In the south of Russiathese steppe agamas are widespread. They look like ordinary ones – these are lizards up to 30 cm in size, males are black and blue, and females are fiery orange. They also like to bask in the sun during the day, crawling out to the most prominent place, and people can be let in pretty close.

If they do run away, then unlike other lizards , which do it quietly, hit everything that is only on the road, which is why a loud track is heard along their path. Prickly to the touch. The bright orange-blue dragon is very showy, has a accommodating character and is not too capricious – although it still needs a large terrarium. Because it is popular with lovers of amphibians. In nature, it is widely distributed and also gets along well with people – for it they are usually not a danger, but protection from predators.

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