Common Agama Fact File
The common agama is a species of lizard from Africa which is known by a range of alternative names including the red headed agama or rainbow lizard.
Males maintain a territory in which a number of females live. This is fiercely defended against other males as he maintains exclusive breeding rights with the females that live there.
Primarily a carnivore they will feed on insects for most of their life. If food is scarce their diet will diversify to include plant matter and other animals.
Learn more about these lizards by reading our fact file below.
Male and female common agamas differ significantly in their appearance. Males are recognizable for the bright red or orange head with a body colored a mixture of blue, green and black. The colors of the male become more intense while fighting or breeding. At night they become a grey color.
Females by comparison are incredibly drab having brownish or tan scales. Their coloration provides much better camouflage than that of the male.
The underside of both males and females is white with buff brown black legs. Their tail is patterned with rings along its length.
At the end of the body is a long, thin tail.
Adults measure an average of 12.5-30cm (5-12in) long. Their weight is not recorded with sufficient detail. Males tend to be larger than females.
Throughout much of the year the common agama is a carnivore which feeds on insects such as ants and termites. If food is in short supply they may turn in to an omnivore and supplement their diet with plant matter.
Food consumed will include berries, fruit, seeds, eggs, flowers, grasses and on occasion a small mammal.
When hunting they wait in a shaded spot till prey passes by. When it does they will give chase and catch them with their sticky tongue.
Africa is the native home of the common agama lizard. They are some of the most common lizards in Africa with a range covering much of the continent south of the Sahara.
An invasive population of the common agama established in 1976 after escaping from the pet trade.
They make their home in a diverse range of habitat including deserts, savannas and forests. Some populations are found in urban areas.
The primary factor affecting their ability to inhabit an area is the availability of vegetation.
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Mating tends to be concentrated during the wet season but may occur year round especially in areas with consistent rainfall.
Males will perform a courtship display in which they bob their head. A dominant male will be the only one to mate with any females in his territory.
Females dig a hole in the ground where they deposit 5 to 7 eggs. During the day she may expose them to the sun to warm before covering them at night.
The gender at hatching is determined by the incubation temperature. At lower temperatures females are produced while higher temperatures create males.
Hatching occurs after eight to ten weeks of incubation.
From birth the young are independent and will start feeding from themselves immediately. By four months old they will have joined a group which they live in for their life.
A male must either fight a current dominant male to take over his group or establish a new territory.
A female will reach sexual maturity first at 14 to 18 months old while males are not mature till 2 years old.
Juveniles are solitary but adults form groups headed by a dominant male and including a number of females and juveniles.
A dominant male will fiercely defend his territory against invading males.
During the day they will bask in the sun for warmth. While basking they take on a darker coloration to assist with absorbing the suns rays. Dominant males will have access to the best basking spot. They will move in to the shade when it is too warm.
Communication between individuals is achieved through movements or by changing color. Males will challenge one another by bobbing their head. When this display is performed at a male they are trying to mate.
Males will fight by slapping their tails together. This continues until one backs down and the other is considered the winner.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators include snakes.
No major threats are currently identified to this species. These animals are regularly kept and traded as pets and it is likely that they are collected from the wild to fuel this trade.
Common agamas are known by a number of alternative names including the red headed agama and rainbow lizard.
The red and blue coloration of this species has given rise to the nickname of the Spider-man lizard.
Chris_huh, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons
Judy Gallagher, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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