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Agamid lizards (Family: Agamidae) are large group of 3000 species that are widespread throughout temperate and tropical regions in the Old World.

These lizards are typically scaly with well-developed legs and long, straight tails. Typically they are between four and six inches (10-15 cm) in body length while the tail will stretch for another eight inches to a foot (20-30 cm).

All agamids lay eggs and the number in a clutch varies according to the species. In some, clutches number less than a dozen, but in others they are over 100, although 25 to 30 is average. Agamids feed on insects and other small invertebrates, and some species supplement these with fruits and leaves. A few species, mostly the spiny-tailed agamids, are completely herbivorous.

True agamids (in the genus Agama) are 50 species which are restricted to Africa. A more common species is the African Agama Lizard (A. atricollis) which inhabits drier areas, often around human habitations. The beautiful Rock Agama or Rainbow Lizard (A. agama) is another resident of many lodges and do-it-yourself camps. The males of this species are blue with red heads.

African agamids are generally large lizards and very colorful. Males of the African species reach over a foot (30 cm) long and sport bright orange, blue and brown colors. Sexual success determines the intensity of colors. For the prize of a harem of females, males fight one another sideways blows of their tails. The winners are always startlingly bright but the defeated males turn out a dull grey, simliar to the females.

Many of the actions of males fighting are also seen during male mating behavior. When a female first approaches a male will bob his head and show his bright throat, as he does when first challenged by a male. If the female is receptive the pair move closer together and mate. Females lay between 3 and 10 eggs.

Changes in color also occur if the male is stressed or threatened. A color usually not visible might be flashed by some species, such as the African agama which turns to face an intruder and opens its mouth to expose the brilliant orange inside.

It is difficult to avoid seeing agama lizards in the tropics and some species turn up everywhere. On the other hand, many species are rare or secretive and hardly ever seen.


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