Weird & Wonderful Creatures: Mwanza Flat-Headed Rock Agama

Mwanza flat-headed rock agama. Photo credit: Christian Mehlführer, User:Chmehl (Own work) [CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons.

While this African lizard may not be able to sling webs like your favorite comic book hero, the Mwanza flat-headed rock agama can climb walls.

The Mwanza flat-headed rock agama (Agama mwanzae) can be found in the savannahs and semi-desert area of Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda, where they live in groups of ten or so members. During the day, they'll often be found sunning themselves on rock outcroppings, although once temperatures exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, they will retreat to the shady areas between boulders.

The coloration, which has earned this species the nickname of Spider-Man agama, is specific only to the dominant male rock agama in a group; females and subservient males are a dusty brown color and are hard to differentiate from other species. While red and blue are the most common color combination, the male's head, neck, and shoulders can also appear purple. However, even dominant males can fade into the background when necessary: when startled or at night, their coloration shifts to the brown color of their other brethren. This adaptive coloration change seems related to the need to regulate body temperature.

These lizards are mainly insectivores, but may also eat berries, seeds, grass, and, occasionally, the eggs of smaller lizards. They lay six to eight eggs and grow to approximately a foot in length. While they have had some habitat loss, they have adapted by moving into thatch of human dwellings.

Do you find lizards fascinating? Learn about Legless Lizards, Gecko Feet, and Lizard Mates.

Science NetLinks has information on other reptiles, too. You can read up on World Turtle Day; learn about different types of snakes: Everglades Pythons, Giant Snake, and Snakes in a Cave; and watch a video about the various reptiles and other animals you can find in a Bayou Ecosystem.


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